The Marriage of Roman Soldiers (13 BC-AD 235): Law and Family in the Imperial Army

By Sara Elise Phang | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
THE DIPLOMAS

The military diplomas, bronze copies of imperial constitutions which granted to veterans the privileges of the Roman citizenship, the right of conubium with Latin or peregrine women, and the Roman citizenship for their children by these non-Roman women, are the most extensively discussed source on the soldiers’ marriages.1 As such, they are valuable mainly as the most precise and abundant source on the privileges granted to veterans and to their children; they show how these policies changed with time.

The imperial constitutions themselves were published on bronze tablets located first on the Capitol in Rome, down to A.D. 89/90, and thence on the Palatine, on a wall behind the temple of Divus Augustus near a shrine of Minerva.2 The surviving diplomas are small personal copies of these constitutions. A diploma consists of two bronze tablets (about 18.5 × 14.5 cm. square, 1 mm. thick) bound together like a diptych with wires passing through holes in the tablets. One copy of the constitution fills the inside surface (intus) of the two tablets; the outer surface (extrinsecus) bears another copy of the constitution on one tablet, and the names of seven witnesses on the other tablet. Over 400 of these diplomas in varying states of preservation have been published.3 They date from late in the reign of Claudius (52/54, CIL XVI 1–2) to the early fourth century (CIL XVI 157). Claudius, who was liberal with grants of the Roman citizenship, is usually thought to have introduced the conferral of the privileges recorded in the diplomas.4

1 The primary collections are CIL XVI (1936), ed. H. Nesselhauf; Roxan (1978);
Roxan (1984); Roxan (1994). The secondary literature is extremely voluminous and
is cited in the Appendix “Literature on Diplomas.” Only the most prominent sec-
ondary studies will be discussed in this chapter.

2 The first diploma to show the Palatine location is CIL XVI 36 of Oct. 27,
A.D. 90.

3 Surviving diplomas range from wholly intact tablets to tiny fragments. The
stereotyped nature of the documents often enables the text to be reconstructed from
medium-sized fragments.

4 E. Birley (1986), 249–57. Brunt (1987), 242–3 suggests that at latest Claudius
instituted the diplomas.

-53-

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