Columnae Herculis I (Nova Roma)

From NovaRoma
Jump to: navigation, search
Columnae title.jpg

" Too easy to say it was a geopolitical border. "
Article by: Marcus Iulius Perusianus
English translation and revision by: Aurelia Iulia Pulchra
From: Italia Nova Roma webzine: POMERIUM - Ianuarius L. Arminio Ti. Galerio cos. MMDCCLX a.u.c. edition.

We know well that we lost something during all those centuries of changes in the human thinking. I often remember that it is too easy to forget that the moment we cross a borderline this implies a change of one’s legal status. When you pass from a nation to another it is maybe easier to remember that; but I wonder how many people keep it in their mind the moment they enter into St. Peter’s square, a part of another sovereign state. Or when they hit the road from Rimini to Mount Titan?

The first example has maybe more significance because it is one of the last remaining limits, for the believer that associates somehow a sacred sensation to a different legal system. Of course for the ancients the place where the community was had so much meaning than nowadays; we should think to the sanctity of places and spaces in general, of limites and compita and to all those lines that mean border.

For the Romans the borderline was, more than any other, the pomerium, that’s also the reason why we dedicated our association and this magazine this name. Among all the pomeria (toponimy of some places seems to say that it was more than one pomerium) the most important was the Urbs'.

The name of pomerium or Pomaerium comes from post and from murus (or also from pone-moerium that it’s the same); it means “behind the wall”, but the ancients didn’t agree each other about this meaning. This version was supported by Varro (LL 5, 143), Livy (I. 44, 3-5) and Aulus Gellius (Noc. Act. 13-14). Some others on the contrary thought it came from pro-moerium (Antistius Labeo, Festus, Paolus Diaconus) and some other explanations were made as time passed by. Actually it is quite clear that in the age when they were discussing about it, the etymology of Pomerium was already lost. “Behind the wall” probably had no more sense because the borderline was no more behind the Servian wall, and in some places it was very far from it. So, when the Pomerium was behind a wall?

Certainly, at the age of the squared city on the Palatine hill, made by the Romulus’ plow and an earth wall! We already wrote about the foundation rite (Pomerium n°4 April 2005): the “sulcus primigenius” was consecrated with the words “ubi terra patrum, ibi patria” following the Etruscan rite, at the center of the new city the symbolic hole, the “mundus”, which had the meaning of an original world without contamination. For this reason inside the new born border it was forbidden to execute, to bury people or animals, to walk bearing weapons in the order of trying to not contaminate that place. The perimeter was enlarged many times, very soon in order to include the Forum and the Capitol (Tacitus says it was Titus Tatius' idea) and then it was enlarged by Servius Tullius (Aulus Gellius, XIII, 14, 3) when he built the walls that took his name. The Pomerium line didn’t follow the wall line, because the Urbs didn’t correspond to the urbanized area. For example Exquilinus and Aventine hills were outside and Aventinus was included only after seven hundred years by Claudius (Tacitus, Annales XII, 23 and Aulus Gellius, XIII; 14). Seneca asked and hypothesized that they didn’t want to include it because of Remus’ bad omens when he was staying on that hill during the legendary fight with Romulus. <<... Sulla was the last one of us to enlarge the pomerium, which was allowed to be enlarged only after territorial conquests made in Italy but not in the provinces. It is more useful to know this or the reason why the Collis Aventinus is out of the Pomerium, a fact that someone says it could have two motivations: because the plebeians fled on it or because Remus had bad auspices on that place looking the birds flight? (Seneca, De Brevitate vitae, III)>>

As Seneca wrote after Servius Tullius there were no more extensions until Lucius Cornelius Sulla dictatorship (80 - 63 B.C.). For Sulla, as for Julius Caesar and Octavianus Augustus, there are no archaeological evidences to witness those enlargements, only text sources. We have to wait the emperor Claudius to have them. They are the “cippi pomeriali” that is to say milestones which report often a progressive number, the description of the fact and a dedication of the enlargement promoter. They are placed all along the street with a distance of 570 meters one from another. This measure is almost exactly eight times the face of the “bini actus”, that is to say the long length of an area called iugerum. Eighth cippi were found in Rome (two on proper site) which are of Claudius’s time ( 49 A.C.): other three are of Vespasian’age ( 69 A.C.); four are from 121 A.C. (age of Publius Elius Hadrian). Between these two last emperors another enlargement was made by Trajan (first prince who was buried inside the town limit in order to consider his person as a god, not following the human laws). Later also Commodus modified the border.

So what it meant to cross the sacred limits of Pomerium? We already said about the tight link between the enlargement of Pomerium and the Italic ground. The Roman laws included a great number of rules (ius pomerii). There was no possibility to introduce non-Italic gods, meaning to not allow the building of temples dedicated to those goods (Tacitus, Annales XII, 23). For this reason the Greek god Apollo’s temple was built in 433 B.C. close to the Capitol but out of the Pomerium. Among the exceptions is the Magna Mater temple, on the Palatine hill of the Asiatic goddess Cibele who came from the Mount Ida. The Trojan origin of the goddess was the same origin Romans believed to have for themselves, as reported in the Sybilline books. Those books contained the prophecy that the goddess had to stay into the Urbs in order to avoid catastrophes; so the temple was built despite the ius pomerii laws.

As we said into the pomerium burials was not allowed (not even for animals) as reported in the tenth table out of twelfth of 451 B.C. This law was not respected as well: see what we said about Trajan’s bury into the forum which took his name.

The general who had the imperium militiae lost it hen he was about a mile away from the pomerium (then he had the imperium domi). This fact was symbolized by his lictores (the escort), they bore no axes, which were previously in the fasces, representing the magistrate power of beating a citizen, even if he could not make him be killed. But the most singular thing happened to the general who came back from a war with his army; if he wanted to meet the Senate and at the same time not lose his imperium, he then had to meet the patres in different places from the Curia, say in the Pompey’s theatre in Campus Martius, or at Bellona temple close to Forum Boarium. Moreover for the ius pomerii also foreigner kings and dignitaries were not allowed to enter the limit; tribunes of the plebs could exercise intercessio only when within a mile from the Urbs; also the citizen assembly when divided according to military classes (comitia centuriata) could not enter the pomerium; so they met into the Campus Martius, memories of the time when the citizens assembled with their weapons. Pomerium limited the Urbs from the Ager (the countryside).

Quite interesting is the classification of the ager, the genera agrorum, as M. Terentius Varro explaines in the fifth book of the De Lingua Latina; this to underline the close link between sacred and profane. The augural discipline talked about ager romanus and peregrinus. The new territory took from enemies bore their name according to the people who lived there (a. Prenestinus, a. Gabinus, a. Labicanus and so on).

So the enemy territory was ager hosticus and incertus was the one which at the same time was hosticus plus the augural art of its people was unknown to the Romans. This last subdivision represents an example of the Religio and the neverending attempt to establish relations between inhabited places and protections of the gods on them.

Quite surprising for a modern man, isn’t it?

" Computerised Roman Warfare: Rome Total War and Legion Arena "
Article by: Gaius Curius Saturninus
From Provincia Thule webzine: L. Arminio Ti. Galerio cos. MMDCCLX a.u.c. edition.

This edition of Thule newsletter has lighter theme, if war can be called a light theme that is. Many of us like every now and then relax from studying the past, but would still love to have something to do with Roman things. Computer gaming is one alternative, and this newsletter concentrates on that part of Roman activities. Over the years there has been numerous strategy games about ancient warfare and civilizations. Currently at the market there are two games which are worth to explore if you are interested in Roman warfare in real time strategy / tactic genre: Rome Total War and Legion Arena.

Rome Total War

In Rome Total War you'll lead one of the three Roman factions centered upon famous families of Brutus, Iulius and Scipio. Each of the families, or clans if you like, has it's strenghts and weaknesses and also different area of operations in the beginning. For example the family of Iulius', that is Iulii, has first to meet the Gauls in North, while Scipii have the Carthage to overcome.

RTW pic1.jpg
Family tree.

Each faction has faction leader and family tree from where to drawn new generals and administrators. Each male member of family has his set of skills which develop during the game play. For example a succesful general recieves skill points which make him better leader in the battle and family members with administrative duties in the cities receive skill points in administration which will make the cities they administer to be more peaceful and to bring more money for your faction's treasury.

Each turn takes half a year and your family members grow, age, marry, have children and eventually die for old age unless they fall in battle. You can also recruit new family members by adoption, but that's expensive.

RTW pic2.jpg

Cities without administrators and armies without commanders don't perform too well, so you'll need to take care of your family and sometimes scale your operations according to available family member resources. This brings a lot of realism into Rome Total War. Family was important to Romans, and as said each individual is different which also adds variation to the gameplay.


Every turn each of your cities brings you certain amount of money from which you'll need to finance building of new cities, recruiting and upkeeping your army and some other things you'll do during the turn. It's important to keep your faction financies in order. Your cities for example bring more profits if they have good trade connections, and that means that you'll need to have trade treaties with other factions. This also adds realism to the game, you probably don't want to declare war with your biggiest trading partners.

Units and technology.

The game has lot's of different units. New units are being introduced when you build more advanced garrisons and armament factories. Some new units also come available during gameplay when years go by. There's no way to have effect on technology advances. That can be surprising for those of us who have used to strategy games like Civilization or Hearts of Iron, in which controlling the scientific research are one of the most important aspects of winning strategy.

RTW pic3.jpg
RTW pic4.jpg

But actually, and this is subjective opinion, I think that the solution Rome Total War offers, works better in ancient environment. It's impossible for you to have best units in the beginning of the game since you'll don't have money to build all city extensions to create better units, and even if you would have, your cities cannot build unlimited amount of troops, so you'll need to have many centers of military production, which bring costs really high and it takes time to get your empire into position to build best units. This eliminates unhistorical technology advances and gives you possibility to concentrate into more pressing matters.

RTW pic5.jpg

The units are quite well balances and quite historically correct. It has always been hot question about games about history and other entertainment products about history, that what is their level of historical accuracy. As a historian I have a little different perspective to this matter than what you might expect. For me historical accuracy is not a must since I respect every piece of entertainment products as being one interpretation of history. After all every history book is also an interpretation, after certain level objectivity becomes a myth and words "historically correct" are simply a interpretation, a representation. What I see as central in historical correctness is feasibility. If making battles balanced one needs to have some features of Spartan phalanx to be disregarded, then isn't it worth it?

However I see it not practical to scrap details or to include unhistorical units just for fun of it. In Rome Total War I have seen best balance of historical details and smooth gameplay in strategy games ever, excluding Hearts of Iron which is of different genre. Also some of the inaccuracies there are can be overcome easily: just don't use them. For example burning pigs doesn't need to be used in large scale in battles.

Cities and improvements.

What comes to units and technology comes also to the cities and their improvements. To make your cities great you can build all sorts of military and civilian improvements. To keep your cities calm you can build temples. To entice trade you can build paved roads, harbours and so on. Small cities cannot build certain improvements, so in order to build better garrisons your city needs to be big enough. This also adds to the realism and further eliminates the need for technology advances.

Those who have played games like Civilization or Europa Universalis or such, it might be a bit of disappointment that there aren't as many city improvements to build, but again balance is fine with overall gameplay. As long as you keep in mind that this game is not an ancient city building simulation, everything is fine.

RTW pic6.jpg
The game itself.

As said, the game advances in turns. At each turn you'll have in the beginning reporting phase, where different information comes in: faction announcements (marriages, deaths, child-births, comings of age etc.), events with other factions (e.g. Iulii declare war to Gauls), built buildings in your cities, units recruited, Senate missions recieved etc. I usually read all the reports before making new decisions.

After reading reports there can be units moved, battles fought, new building projects or recruitment started in the cities, and making all other strategic level decisions. It's often that you'll have couple of battles per turn and you'll need to create new units and move your old ones into position for battles. This is what Rome Total War is all about: war. Every other aspect of the game serves the goal of waging war in Roman environment. This is logical solution for problem that many games which include only scenarios offer, that is the problem of storyline of the game. For example in Close Combat III no matter how well you handled the blitzkrieg part of the war when playing the Germans, you did fall in Moscow because the game storyline demanded it.

RTW pic7.jpg

In Rome Total War the solution is simple: you'll create the storyline of each game and work within the framework of ancient history. This means that the end of game is always different, however usually you end up conquering the Mediterranean world, but that's the idea. However this means that you cannot play Rome Total War as you can play game like Civilization, that is peacefully. In the end the strategic level is not full enough to make it interesting to play only as strategy game.

The strategical decisions are done in map mode where you have scrollable map of Europe and Mediterranean area. At this map you can move your units certain lengths of passages at every turn, visit your cities to make decisions of them (you can also set cities to be auto managed if you like). The map is quite beautiful and even changes by the time of year. Map is made of provinces each with it's metropolis, in this respect it reminds of Hadrianc period organization of Roman empire.

RTW pic8.jpg

This strategical level is only one half (more important or less important depending of individual appreciations) of the gameplay however. The other half is tactical one where you are given a control of each individual battle. When battle begins, you can choose to lead it yourself or let it be automatically solved. When you lead it yourself, you'll at first need to place your troops to the battle map. The area where you can place your troops varies according to the situation. The basic settings for battle are: you are defdending a city, you are attacking against a city or you fight against enemy in open plane. When attacking city it's important to have rams, ladders or other war machines to break city walls or gates to get into the city.

At the heart of tactical level is the placement of your troops, just like in the ancient warfare it should be. Also terrain plays an important role. After you have placed your troops into right formation, you can begin the battle. You can give orders during the battle for individual units, but you cannot break up units or command single soldiers. During the battle important role is given to battle morale, your soldiers can be brave, but they aren't suicidal. When they panic they quite often run off from the battle totally, so you'll need to make sure during the battle to give good orders to them to keep them operational.

Battles are fought in real-time 3D environment where you can zoom and move camera in the battlefield. The graphics of the game are wonderful in this respect. I have included lot's of screenshots with this article since it's difficult to believe it otherwise. If you are interested real-time strategy and Roman things, Rome Total War gives you no disappointment in this side.

RTW pic9.jpg

However there is one major drawback, at least for me it was such. I was very disappointed with the control of the battle. To have battle fought victoriously you'll need quite lot of practise and you need to hit pause key after every 5 seconds or so to see different parts of the battlefield properly for making decisions. This makes it sometimes very hard work actually fighting the battles. By no means they are impossible to be won, but it's too easy to say oneself that one can take a little more casualties just to have the whole battle to end at reasonable time, otherwise each battle can take a lot of time to play, and if you have several unimportant battles during one turn, there is at least for me great temptation to auto solve them and not play them by myself.

The user interface is fine throughout the game, sometimes it takes a little a practise to remember which mouse-button you need to click each time, but that's probably a problem for me because for years I have used to use Macintosh's single button mouse, but in the Windows side of computing people are generally used to use two or more buttons in their mouse, and for them it shouldn't be a great problem. The user interface sometimes requires a lot of clicking to get you to the place you want to, but it's also very compact and doesn't take too much space from the screen.

Overall impression.

Rome Total War is very addictive game, it's difficult to stop playing it since you always want to see what next turn brings, and after reading reports, you want to take some decisions, and then the next turn... Game is easy to learn to play, except learning right battle tactics, but those are after all the the more important half for most, and being complicated also means being flexible and offering many challenges. After you have played imperial campaign once you probably don't want to play it again too many times, but historical scenarios that come with the game make up for next playing round. For a occasional gamer like myself the game offered about a year worth of challenge, and fighting custom battles hasn't lost it's magic still.

RTW pic10.jpg

One reason for this addictiviness and interest for the game are the superb graphics. Of course everything can be done better always, but there really are very few flaws in the graphics and animations. Sound effects are not so special, but totally adequate for enjoyable gaming experience.

At historical side the game offers reasonable and actually quite interesting balance between playability and historically accurateness. It's not a simulation, it's not education but it's an excllent entertainment product.

Legion Arena

The second game I haven't palyed nearly as much, but I wished to include it here since it offers different perspective for the Roman real-time strategy genre.

RTW pic11.jpg

Legion Arena is straightforward tactical real-time strategy game. You don't have any stratgic level decisions to make, instead you fight one battle after another and storyline of the game goes with Caesar's Gallic wars at first. You are sent by Caesar to do battles here and there. After each battle you can re-train and re-equip your men as well as recruit new units. Battles are fought in similar 3D environment as in the Rome Total War.

The most notable difference between the games is obviously lacking of strategic mode in Legion Arena, for some this undoutably will be relief, for others it'll be important feature lacking. This might lead to think that if you detest battles in Rome Total War, Legion Arena wouldn't be very interesting for you. However there is a but. The tactical level is better done in Legion Arena. Before battle begins you have much clearer way to take tactical decisions. There's also added realism in the way commands can be given during the battle.

RTW pic12.jpg

In Rome Total War, you don't have any choices to make your battle plan known to your men. In Legion Arena good battle plan makes usually the difference between winning in Roman style, i.e. overwhealmingly and barely winning. During the battle in Rome Total War you can give orders almost unlimitedly and your men will try to follow them unless it's impossible. In Rome Total War the artificial intelligence is also more complicated. In Legion Arena however the battle plan is followed, and your duty is to make minor arrangements to it and solve unexpected crises. You can give only certain amount of orders and your units do not react that quickly. This makes fighting battles a bit harder as tactical challenge in Legion Arena, but it also makes it less frustrating to play for someone who has familiarised himself into Roman warfare.

RTW pic13.jpg

The graphics in Legion Arena are nowhere near to those in Rome Total War. That's unfortunate, since they could be much better. For me the 3D graphics always look clumsy, so it's not so much about them, but the overall feeling in the game graphics and user-interface is one of disorder and techie-likeness. It doesn't have the elegance of Rome Total War.

For me the lack of strategic level of decision was a big minus, I haven't developed any sort of addiction to Legion Arena, for me it's a series of battles, of course interesting ones, but still series of battles with minimal storyline. Also the poorer graphics make the game less enjoyable than Rome Total War. However I noticed that I enjoyed the tactical challenges Legion Arena offers. Playing it fulfilled the part of the expectations I couldn't satisfy with Rome Total War, that is to be able to simulate ancient warfare in realistic enough environment.

RTW pic14.jpg

Both games are very playable, and as you might have guessed, my final verdict is that these two games are not exact rivals against each other, but rather complimentary since they address different needs. Both are also interesting for anyone interested in Roman warfare, but those who are more deeply interested the warfare should enjoy Legion Arena more. However those who expect more entertainment from their gaming experience, no doubt enjoy Rome Total War more as well do those who are more interested in strategic level decisions. Both products seem to have enthusiastic fans and Googling it, you can find lot's of more information about each game.

One last thing though... those of us who are Mac gamers, found Legion Arena the only option and that's why Legion Arena does get some sympathy points more from me. Whether you choose either of games, I think you will enjoy them, or maybe you do like I did, that is to get both games. Have nice moments while playing Roman-themed games, but do remember to enjoy the Summer, which is way too short on these Northern areas of us!

" Two month left for Pompei "
Article by: Publius Memmius Albucius
From Provincia Gallia webzine: QUIRINUS L. Arminio Ti. Galerio cos. MMDCCLX a.u.c. edition.

«Nonum kal. septembres hora fere septima mater mea indicat ei apparere nubem inusitata et magnitudine et specie» ? says the famous letter 16(6th chapter), that C. Plinius «the Young » sent to Tacitus. It means : «The 9th day before the calends of september, around the 7th hour, my mother warned him [uncle Pline the Old] that was appearing a cloud of an extraordinary size and shape. »

This sentence has formed the most accepted conviction since nearly two milleniums : the Vesuvius began its eruption on the 9th day before the calends of september August 79, 24th. Even recently, the most of publications have taken this date for granted.

Today, this belief is upset since a clear article issued in Archeo (n° 260), written by G.Stefani: «la vera data dell’eruzione»(« the true day of the eruption »).

But Plinius, will you object, may we contest him? !

In fact, the experts have remembered that, in 1797, Mgr Rosini, bishop of Pozzuoli, and chairman of the Academy of history and arts of Napoli, has already, after a complete study of the various manuscripts of the letter sent by Plinius, underlined that the sentence showed many differences, specially concerning the day.

In one version he found «nonum kal. Septembres,(24 th august)», in a second «kal. novembres» (1st november), in a third one «III kal. novembres,(30th october)», and in a fourth « nonum kal. ... » (9 days before the 1st of...).

This variety is understandable : we do not have the original letter from Plinius to Tacitus, but copies. As many ancient books, this letter has been copied several times, in several countries, during a millenium. And errors have been made. Sometimes, the copyistes have even corrected what seemed to be a obvious error.

A century later, the chief of the Pompei excavations, A. Sogliano, proposed to fill up the blank found in the fourth version by «novembres», proposing the day of 24th october 79.

A century passed, and in the last recent years, the discuss was still frozen on the date of 24th August. But at the same time, the archeologists were finding materials that did not fit with the hypothesis of a summer date.

Stefani recalls well that dried fruits, specially september maturing ones (nuts, walnuts and olives), that have been found in a large amount. Wine has been excavated too, in these large closed jars called dolia. This wine seemed to be very young. But it could be 78 wine.

Trying to escape dead inhabitants of Pompei were found, for most of them, dressed in woolen clothes. Does one wear wool during South Italy sweet mornings? No. And nothing tells us that the weather has so much changed since the 1st century AD.

In 1974, a denarius, one silver coin among many excavated in Pompei, was found near the House of the gold bracelet. It wore an inscription. Nice, but put aside. Thirty years later, the coin arises a new interest. The inscription is examined with more attention. It tells :


«To Emperor Titus Caesar Vespasianus Augustus, Great Pontife, wearing the tribunician power for the 9th time, being imperator for the 15th time, consul for the 7th time, father of the patria»

This inscription is exciting for the epigraphists. Till this coin, the specialists did not know when Titus received his 15th acclamatio. They knew that the 14th and 15th nominations extended from the 1st july to the 31st december of 79. Immediately, they thought to a British Museum military diploma, dated 8th september 79, that testifies that Titus was still in his14th acclamation period.

So, if on september 8th, Titus was still in this 14th acclamation period, a fortiori he was on August 24th ! And thus, this not-so-important-coin, which slept under tons of ashes since the burial of Pompei, comes out to reveal that Pompei was still alive at least on 9th september.

Furthermore, we may say now that the eruption of the Vesuvius may not have occur before, at least «nonum kal. Octobres»(24th september). Such a date would be more logical in regard of the archeological discoveries.

But then let us go back to the different versions of Plinius’s letter. Being optimistic, we could at last think that one of these versions hides the true day of the beginning of the eruption.

The 24 th august is now put aside. Then we have «kal. novembres (1st november)», or «III kal. novembres (30th october)», or «nonum kal. ... » (9 days before the 1st of...). It is interesting to note that two of the four versions say : « nonum kal. ». Then, two others say « kal. novembres».

So we might come back to A. Sogliano old proposal and the day of 24th october 79, as «nonum calendas novembres». For we might think that, in a version («III kal. novembres (30th october)», the « non. » (nonum abbreviated) has been read as « iii » (number III). In the other, the copyist could have think, reading a «non. cal. nov.», that was written «nov. cal. nov.», believing that there was an error because the month indication would have thus been written twice, before and after the «cal.», and that it was necessary to delete the first one. So it would have given «kal. nov.». Similarly, in the version that was accepted since Stefani’s article, the «septembres» could have been inferred by a copyist who could have read, this time, «non. cal. non.», and would have considered the last «non.» was for «the ninth (month)», september.

At this point, if we remind the wine in the doria, the dried fruits in the cellars, and the inhabitants in their woolen clothes, we could think to the 24th october 79 as a much more suitable date for the first day of the death of Pompei. This tragedy was to last around twenty hours, from noon this first day to 8 a.m. the second one. At noon the clouds are seen, two hours later Plinius the Old leaves Misena with his fleet to cross the bay to rescue people. At 3 p.m., Herculanum is destroyed, and Pompei the morning after, around eight. Then Plinius the uncle dies in Stabies.

Pompei seems to have recovered two more months of its life, and many writings been condemned to be updated.

To read:

STEFANI G.: « La vera data dell’eruzione », Archeo 2006, 260 ; BORGONGINO M. and

STEFANI G.: « Intorno alla data dell’eruzione del 79 d.C. » Riv. Di studi Pompeiani, 2001-2002, XII-XIII,

MONTEIX N.: « Une nouvelle date pour les derniers jours de Pompéi », Archeologia fév. 2007, n° 441.

" Tiberius Claudius Maximus "
Article by: Gaius Petronius Priscus and Aula Petronia Catilina
English translation and revision: Marcus Prometheus Decius Golia
From Provincia Dacia webzine: DACIA FELIX Maius L. Arminio Ti. Galerio cos. MMDCCLX a.u.c. edition.

The history of ancient Rome, as also the whole world history, most of time is not very kind with people who created it, especially if their status is a modest one. Most of times in the world's memory are remembered only the names of some kings, generals, emperors and officials which at a certain moment were part of some exceptional events. This article wants to tell the story of a normal roman citizen of imperial Rome which found himself in an exceptional situation. Spared by history despite his status, he arrived to us by power of chance, or as he possibly would have believed, by gods will.

His full name was Tiberius Claudius Maximus, and since the end of the first century (of our common era) he was a horseman attached to the VII Claudia Pia Fidelis legion, one of the 4 legions brought by Cezar in Gallia, more than 150 years before.

In the year 88 c.e. his legion, under Domitian orders, attacked Dacia. To this campaign of punishment of the new dacian king Decebal, which initiated his war in 86, participated also Maximus. Leaving from the Viminacium castrum, the VII legion together with others was able to win the dacian army at Tapae.

But this was not enough to defeat definitively the dacian strength and Decebal was able to snatch a very favorable peace treaty.

As Maximus fought well in this war, he was decorated for bravery by the emperor Domitianus. Being an intelligent soldier and having initiative, when his legion defended the central Danubian territory, a very vulnerable territory at that moment, Maximus began to climb the ladder of lower military career. So our personage becomes cavalry quaestor, then cavalry standard bearer and so, later, he becomes a member of the bodyguard of the legate of the VII legion. In this position, near to the legions leader, we can imagine how he heard the news of the rise of a new emperor, Traian and of his plans for war.

Maximus was then transferred to the II Ala Pannonica. Possibly very soon, this ala distinguished herself in missions along the Danube, so that the new emperor made him a duplicarius, i.e. a soldier which gets double wage. In this position he will receive the order to join the army which prepared the invasion of Dacia with the purpose to destroy forever the Kingdom of Dacia.

During the dacian war (carried in two stages between the years 101-102 and 105-106 A.C.), Maximus was named and served as a scout. As Dacia was a densely forested territory full of mountains and well defended we can understand the danger to which our personage exposed himself permanently trying to identify dacian positions and evaluating their situation to report it.

In 106, at the end of the dacian war, we could say that Tiberius Claudius Maximus became a soldier well known in the roman army and to the emperor himself. So we can understand the second decoration for bravery and his upgrading to decurion. As decurion of cavalry meant being in command of 30 horsemen, we can understand his merits were outstanding.

After the roman conquest of Dacia, Maximus served under orders of the first governor of the province, Decimus Terentius Scaurianus (106-112). But some years after the end of the dacian war, the emperor together with Maximus and the II Ala Pannonica, left for a new campaign, this time to the east, against Parthia. So in the years 113-117 A.C, Maximus left the Balkan Peninsula, perhaps for the first time in his life for a fight in the exotic Orient. Here too he will distinguish himself in his missions, being decorated a third time for courage.

After this, and a service of more than 20 years under some of the most glorious Roman emperors and having been part in 3 of the most spectacular wars of his times, Ti. Claudius Maximus, ended his military service. As place of retirement he choused the city of Grammeni, near the old Philippi, in the territory of Provincia Macedonia, possibly his birthplace. There he lived the rest of his days, there he had his funerary stone carved, and there he died.

But I didn't try to reconstitute the story of a roman soldier even if it being the history of a 3 times decorated soldier, decurion and participating in dacian and parthian wars without a specific reason:

This personage, this modest destiny, a tiny bit of the great Roman Empire defied time and arrived to us thanks to a memorable event of history.

A first cause of the survival of his memory would be that his funeral stone survives:

TCM funeral.jpg

Yet not all the personages whose tombstones survive are renowned as Tiberius Claudius Maximus. Actually with him was consumed the last act of the drama named daco-roman wars and end of the dacian kingdom.

Developing a little our story we are now in the year 106, in front of the walls of Sarmizegetusa, capital city of the Kingdom of Dacia. The roman army tries to take by assault the walled city knowing that by the occupation of Sarmizegetusa and by capture of the defendants inside, the war which began 5 years before will end.

With Decebal, king of Dacia on the walls and Traian emperor of Rome, among his troops, the fight reaches a dramatic apex. Now are thrown into the fight the last resources, now the dacians share and distribute the very last reserves of water.

But with all that, it's clear that the fight is lost. Yet for Decebal, the one who snatched from Domitian a peace great like a victory, and who in 102 became client of Rome so that 3 years later could fight again, not all is lost. Similarly Traian knows that yet not all the Decebal's allies entered the fight and that anyway the rest of dacians will continue to fight if their king will be able to escape. So we can imagine how Traian summons Maximus, scout in the II ala and orders him to pursuit Decebal, in case he'll try to escape. Maximus mission is to get hands on Decebal alive, to carry him in triumph in the roads of Rome.

Really, Decebal is able to break the siege with some of his best and his closest. Maximus, guarding his movements goes immediately in hot pursuit of the king. Sarmizegetusa falls after the king's escape, but Traian possibly realizes that this event means just of an important city conquest, but not at all the end of the war. We can believe that still he hopes that his soldier will capture Decebal, unimportant if dead or alive, most important being only to end the bloody war.

Truly, Decebal pursued and numerically overwhelmed understood he could not escape from the roman cavalry. Possibly some of his most faithful men remained in the rear to ease the royal escape, but without great success, as the romans of Maximus were well determined to capture such great war trophy. The escape continued but seeing the roman troops closer and closer, Decebal left his horse and to avoid the shame suffered by the king of Gallia, a lot of years before, committed suicide. With him the resistance of Dacia was mostly annihilated.

Decebal suicide.jpg

The chance of taking the trophy alive slipped from Maximus fingers but anyway he accomplished his mission at best for what depended on him. Hastily he beheaded the king of the dacians and brought his head to Rannistorum, where Traian was. So ended the dacian epic and the history of about 2 centuries of the kingdom north of Danube, and so Tiberius Claudius Maximus also entered in history.

A few years later when the column was built in the Traian's Forum, Traian remembered Maximus, and ordered that the scene of the pursuit and capture of Decebal by his faithful soldier to be carved in stone.

So, a citizen of the empire whose social condition could not promise too much arrived in history pages side by side to the names of kings, emperors poets and great magistrates.

In the story of Maximus we have a sample of history's cynicism, as sometimes history throws into a dustbin emperors and shows in places of honor simple men in exceptional situations.

From the Roman Empire perhaps more than from elsewhere, good sense, duty, honor and even material things as tomb stones and monuments, have been able to extract from darkness episodes and tiny destinies of the past. This thing is more wondrous as history, the common memory, is in reality the only form of immortality.

AE 1969/70, 00583 = AE 1974 and IDRE II, 363.

Trajan Column: CXLII - CXLV

Return: Home page

Personal tools