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Bill Thayer

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Dedicatory Inscription to Antoninus Pius
in the Firemen's Barracks of Ostia


[image ALT: A rectangular stone with a handsomely cut inscription surrounded by a solid border.]
Transcribed and expanded:
1



5

IMPERATORI · CAESARI · DIVI
HADRIANI · F
ILIO · DIVI · TRAIANI
PARTHICI · NEP
OTI ·
DIVI · NERVAE
PRONEP
OTI · TITO · AELIO · HADRIANO
ANTONINO · AVG
VSTO · PIO · TRIBVNICIA · POTESTATE
CO
NSVLI · DESIGNATO · II

Translated:

To the Emperor Caesar, son of the divine Hadrian, grandson of the divine Trajan conqueror of the Parthians, great-grandson of the divine Nerva, Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus, Augustus, Pius, vested with the tribunician power, designated consul for the second time.

To the unwary, this perfectly standard inscription, merely giving an extended form of the honoree's name, and placed in a sort of chapel to the Imperial cult at the W end of the firemen's barracks (often referred to by its Italian name as the Caserma dei Vigili) looks like it's dedicated to Hadrian: but the first "Hadrianus" is the dedicatee's adoptive father, and the second one is one of his own secondary names. We know him as Antoninus Pius.

The date is easy. Antoninus became Augustus (emperor) on the death of Hadrian, July 10, 138 AD. He is recorded as being vested with the tribunician power, but with no numeral following: thus, his first "term". The tribunician year started on December 10. Ergo, somewhere between July 10 and December 10, 138. (He is designated consul for a second time, but the designation can have occurred at any time during his then current first consulship, February 25 to the end of the year: so that's no help.)

One interesting point in this dynastic litany: there is only one word not seemingly required — "Parthici". In addition to the Parthians, Trajan had beaten the Germans and the Dacians; but Parthia was the arch-enemy, the neighboring empire (Kingdom, technically) that Rome never conquered, successor to Persia that had invaded Greece, and that only Alexander the Great had managed to conquer. Trajan's victories over the Parthians, though falling far short of conquest, were the ones that mattered, put him in the same league as Alexander and most importantly, in the eyes of the army at least, gave legitimacy to his family's hold on power.


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Page updated: 13 Jun 03