Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.):
Igabrum, Baetica (Spain)
Actual Location (Collection/Museum):
Cabra, Museo Arqueológico
Statue base. The middle part of the base survives, including the inscription panel in the centre, but the separately worked lower part of the base and the pedestal above have been lost. The inscription panel is marked out by a double incised frame.
Height: 88 cm
Width: 58 cm
Depth: 58 cm
Letter height: 3.8 – 6.5 cm
CIL II, 5.308
This inscription from ancient Igabrum (modern Cabra/Córdoba) in Baetica, Spain, was dedicated by the magistrates of the town in celebration of their being awarded Roman citizenship. It is a good example of how Vespasian’s grant of ius Latii (Latin Rights) to all of Spain resulted in the speedy acquisition of Roman citizenship for those members of the local elite who engaged with local politics by taking on magistracies and positions of leadership in their communities; the spread of citizenship and the favourable rate of urbanisation that accompanied it led to the notion that Spain had become almost as ‘Roman’ as Italy, with Geza Alföldy remarking that the Flavian dynasty marked the “zenith” in the history of Roman Spain (Alföldy, “Spain,” p. 444).
There had been towns and cities in Spain with the status of colony (colonia) or municipium since the 1st century BCE; between the fall of the Republic and the end of Augustus’s reign twenty four colonies and an even larger number of municipia were established, particularly in the south and east of the peninsula (Alföldy, “Spain,” p. 450). The Flavian dynasty continued the process through Vespasian’s grant of ius Latii (Latin Rights) to the entire province, or “all Spain” (universae Hispaniae), as Pliny the Elder recorded (Natural History, III.30) in 73/74 CE, which meant that any community could apply to establish a system of local government by official charter (Cooley, Flavians, p. 264). Any individual who held a magistracy in that local government was therefore eligible for Roman citizenship once the period of office (usually one year) had been completed. As Leonard Curchin has established, these magistracies were the preserve of the free-born elite; unlike colonia, which comprised from the outside both Roman citizens and non-Roman ‘incolae’ (residents), municipia were usually native communities, the elite of which sought to increase their power and prestige by acquiring Roman citizenship and its associated benefits (Curchin, Local Magistrates, p. 71-72).
The inscription under consideration here comes from a votive statue base and was dedicated to ‘Augustan Apollo’ (Apollini Augusto); the base may have originally held a statue of the deity or indeed a member of the imperial family, perhaps the emperor himself. Although the original location of the base and its statue is unknown, it celebrated a prestigious achievement amongst the town’s most prominent inhabitants, and was therefore likely placed in a highly visible and public place, where the award of citizenship could be widely advertised. The text of the inscription records that the ‘townspeople of Igabrum’ (municipii Igabrensis) obtained their Roman citizenship (civitatem Romanam consecutus) on account of holding office – per honorem. The grant was extended to their families also (cum suis). The monument to commemorate this auspicious occasion was paid for and arranged by one of the office-holders, the aedile Marcus Aelius Niger. There has been much discussion as to the status of Igabrum at the moment this inscription was put up; the reference to the municipium of Igabrum in the text implies that the town had already acquired this status - was it awarded at the same time as the Latin Rights were granted in 73/74 CE, or as the result of a separate charter? The fact that Igabrum already refers to itself as a municipium as early as 75 CE (the date of the inscription is confirmed through the description of Vespasian’s consulships) would perhaps suggest the former (Curchin, Supplement to Local Magistrates, p. 7-8). However, as a number of towns in Spain did not become municipia when awarded Latin Rights, it should not be assumed that the two statuses went hand in hand. Although the ‘townspeople’ of Igabrum identify themselves as following a municipal order, there is no evidence to suggest that the charter establishing the town as such had yet been made. Armin Stylow therefore preferred to understand this reference as indicative of a ‘transitional phase’ that existed between the edict of Vespasian in 73/4 CE granting ius Latii and the promulgation of leges municipales (municipal charters) that were to follow over the course of the next 15 years, and which were consolidated under Domitian (Stylow, “Apuntes sobre epigrafia,” p. 301). Following the edict of 73/4, the indigenous communities of Baetica organised themselves into a municipal system – which essentially consisted of individuals being elected to particular magisterial titles – which was then followed by the drawing up of official laws and rules (Stylow, “Apuntes sobre epigrafia,” p. 303). In the case of some towns – such as Irni and Malaca - the official charter was not made until the reign of Domitian, but it would appear that even in this period of transition, the municipes, even though not full Roman citizens, enjoyed virtually all the privileges of citizenship including the use of the tria nomina and organisation into voting tribes (Curchin, Local Magistrates, p. 74). This period of transition may indeed be the motivation for the overt statement of citizenship made in this inscription; with the status of the inhabitants of the town perhaps unclear, those members of the local aristocracy who had achieved full citizenship might use it as a means of identifying their superiority even further. The dedication of a votive base allowed them to do so collectively and through a means that would express their loyalty and devotion to a Roman god, further emphasising their Roman pietas and civic virtue.
The inscription also reveals how Roman citizenship was used by the ruling emperor to show off their positive personal qualities, in this case, generosity. The text of the inscription states that the citizenship was awarded by the beneficio Imperatoris Caesaris Augusti Vespasiani, or the ‘gift of the Emperor Caesar Augustus Vespasian’. It is clear that the grant of citizenship has been understood by the community as a result of the generosity of the emperor, who has extended it to them through benevolence and largesse. This was a useful ideological tool, particularly for a new dynasty that had come to power as a result of civil war. By emphasising the generous nature of his regime, Vespasian might win support both in Rome and the provinces; in Baetica this was especially important, as the region had supported Galba and Otho’s campaigns for the emperorship. Concessions were perhaps readily extended in order to win popular support amongst the native communities, and even more so upon the local aristocracy, upon whom the regime depended for the easy maintenance of peace and order. For these local communities – who had supported the losing side of the civil war – the quick adoption of the Roman system provided benefits, but the acknowledgement of elements of imperial ideology such as the generosity of the emperor provided avenues through which they might demonstrate their support of and loyalty to the regime. The erection of a visible monument that attested to the virtuous qualities of their emperor and which celebrated Roman citizenshp was a respectable means of advertising Igabrum’s political agenda to Rome.
Vespasian’s award of ius Latii to ‘all Spain’, and the subsequent benefits of citizenship and municipal status that followed were of benefit to both the provincial communities of the peninsula and the Flavian regime. The promise of citizenship attracted the interest and support of the local elite for Rome’s system of local administration, acting as a “tremendous incentive toward local office-holding in the Early Empire” (Curchin, Local Magistrates, p. 73). The resulting spread of urbanisation and adoption of Roman political infrastructure lessened Rome’s administrative burden whilst permitting the local communities of Spain a sense of autonomy that was carefully monitored and controlled through the framework of municipal charters (Alföldy, “Spain,” p. 452). By presenting citizenship as a “gift,” bestowed through the generosity of the emperor, the Flavian regime ensured that it became a keystone of their political and social ideology. Although other emperors, such as Claudius, had also demonstrated their generosity through the granting of citizenship, its particular success in the case of the Flavians can be seen from the unprecedented rate of economic growth and prosperity that swept through the provinces of Roman Spain in the first century CE.
Keywords in the original language: