The governor Sextus Sotidius Strabo Libuscidianus sets the rules for requisitioning official transport and accommodation in the territory of Sagalassos
Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.):
Discovered at Burdur railway station (Turkey)
Actual Location (Collection/Museum):
Museum of Burdur, inv. no. 2670
14 CE to 19 CE
The stele has a temple shape with pediment, capitals, shield, akroteria and unfluted pilasters. The first two lines recording the governor’s name and title are significantly bigger than the rest of the text. Both Latin and Greek parts have numerous vacats and the reading has become more difficult since the inscription was found. The stone is chipped at several places, especially on the left side. Part of the decorative frame on the same side is broken
The whole monument is 125 centimetres in height, 80 centimetres in width, and 31 centimetres thick. The inscribed area covers 100 centimetres in height and 64 in width. Latin letters are between 5 and 3 centimetres tall and Greek letters are 1 centimetre tall
Mitchell, S. “Transport in the Roman Empire: A New Inscription from Pisidia” in JRS 66 (1976), p. 106-131 [SEG 26.1392; AE 1976.653; I.Burdur 335]
Keywords in the original language:
The Latin and Greek versions have three sections. The standard heading (l. 1-2; 26-27) is followed by a preface on the regulations (l. 3-7, 27-31), and the regulations themselves (l. 8-25, 31-52). Even if both the topic and content is rather technical, this document is important to illustrate some of the problems deriving from Roman domination and their impact on provincial societies. Local communities were forced to provide transportation and accommodation to certain members of the imperial staff and the governor is seeking to regulate such obligations. His words are also relevant to study the continuity and change of administration procedures between Augustus and Tiberius.
As the opening lines record in significantly bigger letters, Sextus Sotidianus Strabo Libuscidianus, the pro-praetorian legate or πρεσβευτὴς ἀντιστρατηγός is stating law (dicit/λέγει) through an edict. His political career had already included positions in Rome (PIR² VII.2. no.790) and he was now sent abroad. Even if it is not mentioned explicitly, we know that he became governor of the province of Galatia because our document applied to the territory of Sagalassos (l. 8, 31), which was administered as part of the ancient kingdom of Amyntas (Strabo, Geography XII.6.5). Upon the dead of the Galatian dynast in 25 BCE, the region was bequeathed to the Romans (Cassius Dio, Roman History LIII.26.2; Strabo, Geography XII.5.1), Augustus took control and began dispatching commanders to govern it (Strabo, Geography XVII.3.25). The connection between such appointments and imperial rule is fundamental to understand the preface of the inscription.
In lines 3-4, 27-28, the governor of Galatia explains that he needed to issue this edict despite the diligence of the Augusti/Σεβαστοί. Such a justification is to be interpreted as an attempt to show that both Augustus’s and Tiberius’s infallibility should not be questioned. Indeed, the former is to be considered the best of gods (deorum maximus/θεῶν μέγιστος) and the latter the best of leaders (principes/ἡγεμόνες); a remark which fits in the already wide-spread structures of imperial cult present in Asia Minor and Tiberius’s refusal of divine honours. Sex. Sotidianus Strabo Libuscidianus, instead, blames human “unrestrained behaviour” (licentia/πλεονεξία). The problem is that men were abusing their right to requisition transport without paying for the services (gratuitis vehiculis utatur). This burden fell on the shoulders of provincial communities and the governor seems to be worried that the reception of Roman rule by the locals may be affected. Consequently, the proposed solution was backed not only by his own powers (potestas) but also by the supreme authority (maiestas) of Tiberius, from whom he had received a mandate (l. 7). This last line is fundamental to date our document to the period 14 to 19 CE (Coşkun, “Das Edikt”), and sheds lights on the fundamental administrative exchanges existing between emperors and governors, as also illustrated by Trajan and Pliny when the latter administered Bithynia (Letters X.22, 30, 56, 96, 111).
The governor’s proposal consisted in establishing fixed prices and allowances that shall solve controversies and misuses. The content is rather straight-forward but some elements still require some clarification. Above all, it is important to note that communities were obliged to provide transportation not only in their urban centres but also throughout their rural lands; hence the use of the local schoenus as a distance unit and not the Roman mile. Our stone was found in the modern Turkish city of Burdur, which is approximately 20 kilometres away from Sagalassos archaeological site. The text in lines 13/32 mentions Cormasa and Conana, and boundary stones such as SEG 48.1550 confirm that Sagalassos preserved a large territory between the lake Askania (Burdur gölü) and the Pisidian mountains in the imperial period (Vanhaverbeke, Waelkens, The chora of Sagalassos). This was exactly the same area crossed by a new Roman road connecting central Anatolia and the Mediterranean, which Augustus sponsored and was therefore named Via Sebaste (see French, Roman Roads, p. 18). The construction of this route in 6 BCE is to be linked with the process of pacification that followed Amyntas’s bequest. Some Pisidian tribes inhabiting the inaccessible mountains of the former Galatian kingdom revolted and Rome was forced to engage in a series of military campaigns (Mitchell, Anatolia, p. 69-79). Consequently, this area could at the beginning of the 1st century CE witness a scenario analogous to that praised by the Halicarnassians at the end of the Civil Wars. Roman pax, nevertheless, entailed a series of compromises. One was the confiscation of land that preceded the establishment of veteran colonies around Pisidia (e.g. in Antioch: RGDA 28; Strabo, Geography XII.8.14; see Levick, Roman Colonies). One another was this provision of transport and free accommodation to the growing number of Roman officials that arrived as soon as provincial administration began. From the subsequent and immediate complaints by the local population comes Sextus Sotidianus Strabo Libuscidianus’s urgency in providing a response.
The governor’s identification of the groups entitled to vehicles and animals shows the wide array of Roman personnel present even at the early stages of the province of Galatia. This included not only the staff of the imperial legate, but also senators, equestrians, soldiers on duty, and essentially anyone with the right certification (diplomum). Cicero, for instance, reports corruption in the issue of such diplomas (Against Piso 90), and both Tacitus (Histories II.65) and Pliny (Letters X.45-56, 64, 83, 120-121) confirm both their requirement and misuse after Tiberius. As for the right of accommodation (mansio/στάθμος), the lex Iulia de repetundis already established that it was to be provided for free (Crawford, Roman Statutes, p. 769-772, no. 55). Accordingly, Libuscidianus could not offer any elaborate proposal to overturn this requirement in lines 23-25/49-52 (see Mitchell, “Transport,” p. 127-128). For this reason, exemptions from lodging that could be granted to free cities such as Aphrodisias were highly appreciated.
The inclusion of the specific case of Sagalassos in our collection is not solely relevant to the study of provincial administration and the role of governors in promoting the local acceptance of Roman rule, policies and leaders. Our document becomes even more important when one realises that the exactions of official transport and accommodation continued to be a recurrent problem between officials and provincial communities after the early imperial period. Germanicus’s himself had to apologise for the behaviour of his soldiers and entourage (SB 1.3924), Thasos near the Via Egnatia suffered similar circumstances under Vespasian (Pouilloux, Dunant, Recherches, p. 82-87, no.189), and Pliny also faced it in Bithynia (Letters X.77-78), just to name a few (see Mitchell, “Transport”, p. 111-112). Another testimony discovered in Takina (c. 10 km from Burdur) provides us with the clearest demonstration that Sextus Sotidianus Strabo Libuscidianus’s edict – as authoritative and comprehensive as it may sound – was ineffective. The inscription (SEG 37.1186) contains the words of another provincial governor under Caracalla responding to the complaints of peasants in an imperial estate who could not endure the burdens imposed by soldiers and administrators. The question is, why had this Roman policy so onerous for the local population not been removed? A simple answer prevails: good and serviceable access to roads in the provinces was key to the maintenance of Roman power and, attached to it, fundamental structures such as the post system or cursus publicus which Augustus was praised to have installed (Suetonius, Augustus 49, see Kolb, Transport und Nachrichtentransfer; Di Paola, Viaggi).