Military Diploma for a soldier from Syria Palaestina (CIL XVI, 87)

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Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.): 
Military diploma.
Original Location/Place: 
Reportedly discovered at Aphek on the Golan heights above Lake Tiberias.
Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
Musée de Louvre, inventory number: BR4088
139 CE
Physical Characteristics: 
Military diploma formed of two rectangular bronze tablets, inscribed on the exterior and interior faces. Holes (for securing the tablets together) are visible in the bottom right hand corners and in the centre of the tablets. 
Length: 13.1 cm
Width: 11.8 cm
Letter heights: 0.05-0.1 cm


This inscription records the honourable discharge of an auxiliary soldier who served in the provincial garrison of Syria-Palestine. It is an important text as it is the earliest material evidence for the province’s change of name following the Bar Kokhba revolt, from Judea to Syria-Palaestina.
The diploma was issued to a soldier named Caius, the son of Lucius, who originated from Nicaea in the eastern province of Bithynia. He was a ‘footsoldier’ (ex pedite) and he had served in the second cohort of the Ulpia Galatarum, under the leadership of Quintus Flavius Amatianus, who is also named in the inscription. As is standard in Roman military diplomata, the text of the inscription awarded Caius an honourable discharge from the army (dimissis honesta) following twenty five years of service (quinque et vi/ginti stipendiis emeritis). As well as an honourable discharge, Caius also received Roman citizenship (civitatem dedit), which was extended to his children and their descendants (li/beris posterisque eorum). In line with other military diplomata, the right to a legal marriage (conubium) was also given, either with a wife to whom he was married when his Roman citizenship was awarded (cum uxoribus quas tunc habuissent / cum est civitas iis data) or to a future wife if he was still unmarried (aut siqui caelibes / essent cum is quas postea) (for marriage in the Roman military, see Phang, The Marriage of Roman Soldiers). Along with the imperial titles describing the emperor at the beginning of the text and the dating formulae at the end, which give a secure date of 139 CE for the diploma’s issue, the inscription follows all the expected conventions of military discharge notices: Caius’s service is acknowledged and rewarded, with the benefits and privileges of Roman citizenship extended to his family members through the generosity of the Roman state.
However, this particular diploma is of particular interest for our purposes due to the information it provides regarding the organisation of the Roman army in Judea following the Bar Kokhba revolt, as well as its reference to the province by its new name of Syria-Palaestina. The text recorded here is, in fact, a copy of a general constitutio that was issued to a large number of auxiliary soldiers who had recently been discharged from service in the province, where they had been based as part of the military garrison installed by the emperor Hadrian to secure the region following the outbreak of the revolt in 132 CE. Following Hadrian’s titles at the beginning of the text, the constitutio is applied to a number of cavalry units (alae) and cohorts (cohortes) that served under the governor of the province, Calpurnius Atilianus (sunt in Syria Palae/stina sub Calpurnio Atiliano). Three cavalry units are specified: the Gallorum et Thracum, the Antiana Gallorum and the VII Phrygum, the first two of which were composite units of Gauls and Thracians who had been based in the province as early as 54 CE (Russell, “Roman Military Diploma,” p. 80. The evidence for these units in Judea in 54 CE is given by CIL XVI, 3). Of the remaining twelve units listed in the diploma, several are known to have been based outside of the province of Judea before the outbreak of the Bar Kokhba revolt, such as the cohors I Sebastena, I Flavia civium Romanorum and the cohors I Damascenorum, which was stationed in Egypt until shortly before the outbreak of the war (Russell, “Roman Military Diploma”, p. 100). The regiments named after the emperor Trajan, the Cohortes I and II Ulpiae Galatarum and the Cohortes III and VI Ulpiae Petraeorum were originally raised in the east in preparation for the Parthian campaigns, and were assigned to the province of Judea to strengthen the Roman military presence there following the Jewish revolt of 116-117 CE, presumably as a precaution against further outbreaks of unrest (Russell, “Roman Military Diploma,” p. 100). The discovery of four auxiliary diplomata also from Syria-Palaestina since the publication of the text under discussion here has further clarified the composition of the Roman garrison of the province following its reorganisation at the end of the Bar Kokhba revolt, and indicate the extent of the military presence instituted there by Hadrian; the fourteen units attested in the diplomata are indicative both of Rome’s use of the army as a deterrent against further uprisings and also of the potential threat that the Jewish community was perceived to pose (for a full breakdown of the units based in Syria-Palaestina and their history, see Russell “Roman Military Diploma,” p. 111-133).
The key feature of this inscription, however, is that it is the earliest material evidence for the renaming of the province of Judea as Syria-Palaestina. This was a deliberate blow to the “Jewish national consciousness,” and was designed to permanently eradicate the region’s cultural and religious identity (Smallwood, Jews Under Roman Rule, p. 463). The name ‘Judea’ derived from the identity of the province’s original inhabitants, the Iudaei, and so by changing it to Syria-Palaestina Hadrian effected what amounted to the “damnatio memoriae of a whole nation” (Speller, Following Hadrian, p. 201). The abolition of the name of the province was an extra punishment of the Jews that remained in the region, and a clear statement of Rome’s power and control; although there is plenty of evidence which demonstrates the regularity with which Rome changed the name of provinces – Hispania Ulterior became provincia Baetica, and Dacia was reorganised as Dacia Superior, Dacia Porolissensis and Dacia Inferior, for example – none of the previous instances had been in response to revolt. As Werner Eck has noted, even those provinces in which civil unrest was not uncommon, such as in Germania, Pannonia and Britannia, were not penalised with the loss of their names (Eck, “The Bar Kokhba Revolt”, p. 87-89). The reconstitution of Judea as Syria Palaestina was a deliberate punishment not simply of the province that had rebelled, but of the Jewish people specifically; their name was removed from the geographical landscape and replaced with one that offered no trace of Jewish identity. The choice of ‘Syria-Palaestina’ signified that the province was now to be regarded as one whose origins were Syrian and Hellenistic, in an active attempt to transform the place’s cultural memory and ethnic character (Smallwood, Jews Under Roman Rule, p. 463-4). 
Bibliographical references: 

Rom und die Provinz Iudaea/Syria Palaestina: Der Beitrag der Epigraphik

Eck, Wernerarticle-in-a-bookJüdische Geschichte in hellenistisch-römischer Zeit. Weg der Forschung: Vom alten zum neuen Schürer. Herausgegeben von Aharon Oppenheimer unter Mitarbeit von Elisabeth Müller-Luckner p. 237-263Rom und die Provinz Iudaea/Syria Palaestina: Der Beitrag der EpigraphikMünchenOldenbourg1999

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
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Military Diploma for a soldier from Syria Palaestina (CIL XVI, 87)
Author(s) of this publication: Caroline Barron
Publishing date: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 18:52
Visited: Wed, 04/24/2024 - 20:30

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