Dedication to Vespasian and Titus for pax Augusta (CIL VI, 199)

Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.): 
Original Location/Place: 
Unknown. Found near the Arch of Septimius Severus in the Roman Forum, Rome.
Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
Antiquarium of the Palazzo del Quirinale, Rome. Inv. no. DP 1158
71 CE
Physical Characteristics: 
Marble altar. The inscription is set within a recessed and incised double frame. The lettering of the first two lines is larger than that of the rest of the inscription. The sides of the altar are decorated with reliefs: on the left side is a patera (dish), and on the right an urceus (jug).
Height: 92cm    
Width: 48cm
Depth: 39cm
CIL VI, 199
This inscription records the dedication of an altar by eight members of the Sucusana tribe of Rome to pax Augusta, or ‘Augustan Peace’. Although the kind of peace that the altar is sacred to – ‘Augustan’ – is usually attributed to the reign of the first princeps, Augustus, this inscription dates to the Flavian period, and indeed the first years of Vespasian’s rule. It is an interesting example of Vespasian’s early adoption of Augustan ideology and his ability to propagate it to benefit his own political agenda, but the dedication also records the popularity of the emperor amongst a particular and historic group in Rome, the tribus Sucusana (Sucusana Tribe). Given the relative lack of support for Vespasian in Italy during the civil war of 69 CE, it is perhaps surprising to find such a clear endorsement of his success within the capital city.
The inscription at the front of the altar states that it is ‘sacred to Augustan Peace’ (Paci Augustae sacrum). The names of eight ‘caretakers’ (curatores) then follow, who are described as having responsibility for the ‘iuniores’ (junior members) of the Sucusana tribe of Rome. This was one of the four ‘urban tribes’ of Rome that were believed to have been instituted by Servius Tullius, the legendary sixth King of Rome; the , Sucusana, Esquilina, Collina and Palatina tribes were established to account for (and systematise) the rapid population growth of the city and its surrounding countryside in the sixth century BCE (see Livy, History of Rome, I.43.13; for the origin of the tribes, see Taylor, Voting Tribes, p. 3-16). The Sucusana tribe (later known as the tribus Suburana) is listed as the first tribe to be established by almost all the ancient sources that mention this reorganisation (Varro, On the Latin Language V.56; Festus, Lexicon, 506;Livy, History of Rome, I.43.13), leading to speculation that the tribe represented the most important or prestigious citizens in the city. However, as Lily Ross Taylor demonstrated, the discovery of the tabula Hebana (fragments of a senatus consultum and decree dating to c. 20 CE) revealed that no members of the tribe held equestrian or senatorial status and so its social prestige and political power may have been somewhat limited, (Taylor, Voting Tribes, p. 71). It was certainly minimal by the Flavian principate, but the historic nature of the tribe rendered it nonetheless important, even if only as symbolic representatives of Rome’s earliest days. Their particular support of Vespasian may also have been connected to their modest social and political status; unlike the emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Vespasian was of humble, Sabine roots, with his brother, Flavius Sabinus, the first in the family to reach senatorial rank (Suetonius, Vespasian, 2.2). His lack of noble Republican ancestry was carefully articulated in the creation of his self-image as emperor, and although he had served under Claudius and Nero in roles that suggested a close affiliation with the imperial household (such as accompanying Claudius on the invasion of Britain in 43 CE), the public figure he presented was that of the “self-reliant Sabine” (Levick, Vespasian, p. 72). In spite of there being little support for Vespasian in Italy (with exception of the fleets at Misenum and Ravenna), it is perhaps unsurprising that the group amongst whom he found the most visible support in the capital was that of the social class he most appealed to. The tribe’s support of the Flavians clearly had its benefits; the D. Novius Priscus named in the inscription here is identifiable with the consul of the same name who rose to prominence later, in 78 CE (de Angeli, “Le base Farnese e l’altare del Quirinale”, p. 246).
The altar was one of three dedicated by the tribus Sucusana, all of which were excavated from the same location close to the later Arch of Septimius Severus, on the slope of the Capitoline hill. Like the inscription of the altar dedicated to pax Augustae, the other two altars also engage with Flavian political ideology; one was dedicated to the ‘Victory’ of Vespasian (CIL VI, 198: Victoriae / Imperatoris Caesaris Vespasiani / Augusti / sacrum) and the other to ‘Eternal Peace’ (CIL VI, 200: Paci Aeternae / Domus / Imperatoris Vespasiani / Caesaris Augusti). All three altars appear to have been dedicated in 71 CE, perhaps to coincide with Vespasian’s triumphal arrival in Rome (for the dating of the altars, see Rausa, “La base Farnese,” p. 287-310). Together they commemorated the key events that had led to Vespasian’s rule: victory in the civil war, the resulting peace that this victory brought to the Roman world and, most significantly, the eternal nature of that peace that the establishment of a new dynasty suggested. This was, of course, the very nature of the ‘peace’ promoted by Augustus, and it is no coincidence that Vespasian sought to articulate his own rise to power in the same language and rhetoric. Just as Augustus represented the birth of a new regime in Rome’s political history, Vespasian was a relative newcomer to the imperial court; by presenting his ascent to the principate in ways that offered direct parallels with the ascent of the first emperor – the civil war of 69 CE was correlated with Actium, for example – he ensured that his arrival in Rome appeared rather as an extension of Augustan power than a military coup set to destabilise the Julio-Claudian legacy. It was the necessity of peace across the empire that led the Senate to confer upon Vespasian all the titles and powers of emperor on 22 December 69 CE (Tacitus, Histories, IV.3), which in turn transformed the notion of pax into the pivotal ideology of Flavian power. It reiterated the aims and achievements of Augustus and reinforced the political harmony of the capital city of Rome, as well as securing Roman authority in the provinces. Vespasian’s closure of the Gates of Janus in 71 CE imitated the same closure under Augustus (see Pliny, Natural History, XXVII.3; Orosius, Against Pagans, VII.3.7), and his vow to build the Templum Pacis echoed the vow made for the construction of the Altar of Augustan Peace in 13 BCE. Even the coinage minted by the Flavians in these first years of Vespasian’s rule depicted the personification of Pax with the explicit legends PAX AVGVSTI and PACI ORB TERR AVG (paci orbis terrarum Augusti – “to the world peace of the emperor”) appearing often, particularly in Asia Minor between 69-70 CE (see Bianco, “Indirizzi programmatici e propagandistici”, p. 168-172; for the coinage of Vespasian more generally, see Kraay, “The Bronze Coinage of Vespasian”, p. 47-57). By equivocating his achievements with those of Augustus, Vespasian clearly identified his reign as that of the new peacemaker of the empire, which was set out through a carefully articulated strategy of propaganda, that he both promoted himself and encouraged amongst his supporters (de Angeli, Le basi Farnese e l’altare del Quirinale, p. 250; see also Paladini, “A proposito di ‘pax Flavia’”, p. 223-229).
It is impossible to know from the extant evidence what led the Sucusana tribe to set out the three altars excavated from the Capitoline slope of the Roman Forum. Irrespective of whether the altars were conceived of and erected without the direction of the imperial court, their clear statement of Flavian ideology demonstrates the speed with which this message spread. If the altars were set up as part of the celebration of Vespasian’s triumphal arrival in Rome in 71 CE, his celebration of pax as the cornerstone of his power had arrived as a concept in the city before he had himself, and had been used to establish his political capital. 

Keywords in the original language: 

Bibliographical references: 


Levick, BarbarabookVespasianLondonRoutledge1999

A proposito di ‘pax Flavia

Paladini, Maria Luisaarticle-in-a-bookLa pace nel mondo anticoM. Sordi223-229A proposito di ‘pax Flavia'MilanoVita e pensiero1985

Altare con dedica alla Pax Augusta

Rausa, Federicoarticle-in-a-bookIl Palazzo del Quirinale. Catalogo delle scultureL. Guerrini, C. Gasparri239-241Altare con dedica alla Pax AugustaRomaL’Erma di Bretschneider1992
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