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Bill Thayer

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 p414  Diploma

An article on p414 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

DIPLO′MA, a writ or public document,​a which conferred upon a person any right or privilege. During the republic, it was granted by the consuls and senate; and under the empire by the emperor and the magistrates whom he authorised to do so (Cic. ad Fam. VI.12, ad Att. X.17, c. Pis. 37; Sen. Ben. VII.10; Suet. Calig. 38, Ner. 12, Otho 7; Dig. 48 tit. 10 s27). The diploma was sealed by the emperor (Suet. Aug. 50); it consisted of two leaves, whence it derived its name. These writs were especially given to public couriers, or to those who wished to procure the use of the public horses or carriages (Plin. Ep. X. 14, 121; compare X. 54, 55). The tabellarii of the emperor would naturally always have a diploma; whence we read in an inscription (Orelli, No. 2917) of a diplomarius tabellarius.

Thayer's Note:

a a writ or public document: The simplest way of looking at these diplomata is that they were the ancient version of today's permits. One of the types of diploma most frequently met with is the diploma honestae missionis or military discharge document; then as now, this is in fact a permit to return to civilian life: for a fairly detailed discussion of these, with a further link, see Lanciani.

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Page updated: 7 Dec 06