Edict on the immunity of veterans from the Legio X Fretensis in Egypt (CIL XVI, App. 12)

Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.): 
Imperial edict.
Original Location/Place: 
Philadelphia, Egypt.
Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
Alexandria, Egypt. Graeco-Roman Museum, inventory no.: 19045
94 CE Jul 2nd
Physical Characteristics: 
Two rectangular plaques of wood; they survive intact with the exception of one corner of one plaque which has started to rot. One plaque is decorated with a border. The text is arranged in three columns over three of the faces. One exterior face contains two columns of text: 20 lines are written in one direction and are separated from a column of text, written at a forty-five degree angle to it, containing a list of names.
Wood (oak)
Height: 20 cm
Width: 17 cm
Depth: 0.8 cm
CIL XVI, App. 12
AE 1910, 0075
AE 1950, 0240
AE 1993, 1659
This rare, wooden copy of a military diploma was excavated in 1909 from the ruins of Philadelphia Arsinoitica, Egypt. It was copied in 94 CE from a bronze original that was inscribed in 88/89 CE, and attached to the wall of the Caesareum in Alexandria. It is an unusual document because as well as recording the honourable discharge and privileges awarded to the veterans concerned, it also records part of an imperial edict of the emperor Domitian. The veteran to whom this diploma was issued belonged to a particular legion of soldiers that held especial privilege with the Flavian emperors, the Legio X Fretensis, who had assisted in the siege of Jerusalem before eventually being stationed there permanently as the occupying legion of Judea.
Column I of the exterior face records the names of nine witnesses who observed the copying of the diploma. Bronze military diplomas typically bear the names of seven witnesses, but in this case there are an additional two for reasons unknown. Five of the nine are identified as members of the ‘Pollia’ voting tribe, one of the sixteen rural tribes of ancient Rome. All of the witnesses are described as veteranus – veteran – indicating that they too had been honourably discharged and received the same privileges to which they were themselves bearing witness.
Column II of the exterior face contains the preamble and the remains of the so-called ‘Edict of Domitian’. The preamble gives the date that the wooden copy was made (94 CE) through the naming of the consuls, Lucius Nonius Calpurnius Torquatus Asprenas and Titus Sextius Magius Lateranus. The date that the edict was actually passed is indicated to be 88/89 CE, when Domitian held tribunician power for the 8th time (tribunicia potestate VIII). The preamble also records the official notice of honourable discharge, that Marcus Valerius Quadratus, a veteran, was honourably discharged from the Legion Tenth Fretensis (Marcus Valerius…Quadratus veteranus dimissus honesta / missione ex legione X fretense). The official notice of this discharge was placed beside the ‘Great Temple of the Caesars’, or the Caesareum of Alexandria. Clifford Ando has noted that many discharge diplomas from Egypt record the official placement of their discharge diploma as the Caesareum, but in this instance the location is more specific (Ando, Imperial Ideology, p. 356). The bronze tablet was affixed ‘next to the shrine of Venus in Marble, on the wall, on which is written that which follows’ (secus aedem Veneris mar/moreae in pariete in qua scriptum est id quod infra scriptum est), or right next to where the official Edict of Domitian had also been put up. It is perhaps for this reason that the edict was copied into the wooden version of the diploma, in order to retain the details that the edict next to it also stated.
The edict was made by Domitian in 88/89 CE in order to grant immunity and citizenship to all veterans of the Legio X Fretensis stationed in Alexandria. In the text this is implied by ‘universorum / vestrorum veterani milites’ (‘veteran soldiers of your entire population’), which the editors of Ancient Roman Statutes acknowledged did not make full sense in Latin. They argued that the meaning was clear, however, and addressed the particular group of veterans that belonged to this one legion that were based in Egypt (Johnson, Coleman-Norton, and Bourne, Ancient Roman Statutes, p. 160, n. 3). Susan Phang, however, believed the language to be “expansive,” with the edict “probably apply[ing] to veterans in general” (Phang, Marriage of Roman soldiers, p. 72; also Alston, Soldiers and Society, p. 217, n. 23.v). As the second tablet of the diptych is missing, the end of the edict of Domitian and the beginning of the statement about the Legio X Fretensis is missing, and it is impossible to know exactly how specific the edict was intended to be. The veterans referred to in the edict, and their family members, were to be granted immunity “from all public taxes and harbour fees” (omnibus vectigalibus / portitoribus publicis) as well as Roman citizenship (omni…iure cives Romani esse possint). This latter benefit was a common feature of military diplomata, which were only issued for those members of the auxiliary forces who did not, by their very nature as auxiliaries, already have full citizenship (see also the Military diploma granting citizenship to the fleet at Ravenna).
Column III, inscribed on the interior of the panels, records a decree that is without question directly related to the Legio X Fretensis, and it is here that their singular importance to the Flavian dynasty can be noted. The decree records certain unknown (due to the state of preservation) privileges to the veterans and their wives and children, and appears to be a standard auxiliary diploma (Alston, Soldiers and Society, p. 217, n. 23.v). However, these privileges were awarded only to those who “soldiered at Jerusalem in the Legion Tenth Fretensis and were honourably discharged, after serving out their time” (qui militaverunt Hierosolymnis / in legione X fretense dim{m}issorum honesta missione stipendis eme/ritis). The Legion Tenth Fretensis had been formed under Octavian in 41/40 BCE; it had fought with him against Pompey at Battle of Naulochus in 36 BCE, from which it earned its name ‘Fretensis’, in reference to the Strait of Messina (Fretum Siculum) being close to where the battle took place. The Legion also fought with Octavian at Actium, after which it was sent briefly to the Balkans, before being stationed in Syria in 6 CE and Cyrrhus in 18 CE (Tacitus, Annals, II.57). During Nero’s reign the Legion participated in campaigns against the Parthians (58-63 CE) under the leadership of Cnaeus Domitius Corbulo. Once Corbulo was recalled to Rome in 66 CE, the Legion came under the command of Vespasian and was centrally involved in the First Jewish War, taking part in the siege of Jerusalem (Josephus, Jewish War, V, 2.4-5; 6.3; for a thorough description of the Legion’s campaigns in Judea, see Dąbrowa, Legio X Fretensis, p. 1-21). Following Vespasian and Titus’s respective departures for Rome, a new military governor, Lucilius Bassus, was sent from Rome, under whom the Legio X Fretensis was engaged in the suppression of the few remaining Jewish strongholds, including Herodium (Josephus, Jewish War, VII.6.1), and the fortress Machaerus on the shore of the Dead Sea (Josephus, Jewish War, VII.6.5). After Lucilius Bassus’s death, the new governor Lucius Flavius Silva led the Legion to destroy Masada, the last Jewish stronghold, in 73 CE (Josephus, Jewish War, VII.8.1-9.2). From the end of the war in Judea, the Legion became a permanent occupying force in the province with its main camp remaining in the city of Jerusalem; until the reign of Trajan they took part in no further major warfare, but rather served as the core of the Roman garrison (Dąbrowa, Legio X Fretensis, p. 14). Although the evidence is somewhat scarce, it appears that the Legion also took part in the defence of the city during the Bar Kokhba revolt (see CIL III, 7334.)
Although some veterans may have settled in Judea, the epigraphic evidence suggests that the largest number were settled outside of the province in Egypt (Dąbrowa, Legio X Fretensis, p. 21). This is likely to have been due to its proximity to Judea and the relative wealth that the province offered; veterans were “socially and politically prominent” and it might be conjectured that those from a legion as important to the Flavians as the X Fretensis would be particularly well provided for (Garnsey, Social Status, p. 249). The award of citizenship, immunity from taxation and settlement in the richest province of the Roman world was an indication of the high esteem in which these soldiers were held, and the important role that they had played in the military campaigns that had secured the empire for the Flavian dynasty.
Bibliographical references: 

Ancient Roman Statutes

Johnson, Allen C., Coleman-Norton, Paul R., Bourne, Frank C.bookAncient Roman StatutesAustinUniversity of Texas Press1961

Copie d’un édit impériel

Lefebvre, Gustavearticle-in-a-journal39-5212Copie d’un édit impérielBulletin de la Société archéologique d'Alexandrie1910
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