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  • Caillan Davenport


This article considers a group of inscriptions, ranging in date from the late second to late third centuries ad, which indicates that low-ranked members of the Roman army gained access to equestrian rank in this period. The inscriptions attest two interrelated phenomena: (1) the promotion of soldiers to posts in the militiae equestres, a series of officer commands usually held by men from the ordo equester; and (2) grants of equestrian status to soldiers' sons, many of whom were only very young. These developments represent a marked departure from the circumstances that prevailed in the early Empire, when equestrian rank could be bestowed only by the emperor on men who possessed a census qualification of 400,000 sesterces. In this article, I propose that successive emperors gave soldiers greater access to the militiae equestres, and in some cases awarded equestrian rank to their sons, because they recognized the widespread desire for social mobility among the ranks of the army. The widening of access to equestrian rank within the Roman army contributed to the devaluation of this status over the course of the third century ad.

Questo articolo prende in considerazione un gruppo di iscrizioni, la cui datazione è compresa tra tardo II e tardo III secolo d.C., che indica che i membri di basso livello sociale dell'esercito romano guadagnarono l'accesso al rango equestre in questo periodo. Le iscrizioni attestano due fenomeni correlati: (1) la promozione dei soldati da destinare alle militiae equestres, una serie di ordini di ufficiali generalmente rivestiti da uomini provenienti dall'ordo equester; e (2) sovvenzioni dello status equestre a figli di soldati, molti dei quali erano molto giovani. Questi sviluppi rappresentano una notevole mossa dalle circostanze che prevalevano nell'Alto-Impero, quando il rango equestre poteva essere concesso solo dall'imperatore ad un uomo che possedeva una qualifica censoria pari a 400.000 sesterzi. In questo articolo, propongo che imperatori che si succedettero al trono diedero ai soldati un maggiore accesso alle militiae equestres, e in alcuni casi conferirono il rango equestre ai loro figli, perché questi riconoscessero il diffuso desiderio di mobilità sociale tra i gradi dell'esercito. L'ampliamento dell'accesso al rango equestre all'interno dell'esercito romano contribuì alla svalutazione di questo status nel corso del III secolo d.C.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Dr Caillan Davenport, School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia.


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1 For a general overview of this topic, see Campbell, B., War and Society in Imperial Rome, 31 bcad 284 (London/New York, 2002). All dates are ad unless otherwise noted. The following standard abbreviations are used for epigraphic works: AE = L'année épigraphique; CIL = Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum; ILS = Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae (ed. H. Dessau); P.Flor. = Papiri greco-egizii, papiri fiorentini (ed. G. Vitelli and D. Comparetti); RIB = Roman Inscriptions of Britain (ed. R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright).

2 Adams, C., ‘War and society’, in Sabin, P., Van Wees, H. and Whitby, M. (eds), The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare. Volume II: Rome from the Late Republic to the Late Empire (Cambridge, 2007), 198232, esp. pp. 211–15.

3 The most accessible summaries of the equestrian order in the Imperial period are Brunt, P.A., ‘Princeps and equites’, Journal of Roman Studies 73 (1983), 4275; Duncan-Jones, R.P., ‘Who were the equites?’, in Deroux, C. (ed.), Studies in Latin Literature and Roman History XIII (Brussels, 2006), 183223.

4 Alföldy, G., The Social History of Rome, trans. Braund, D. and Pollock, F. (London, 1984), 122, estimated that there were some 20,000 equites during the Augustan period; this number would have increased over the following centuries.

5 The best recent overview of these and other social, cultural and economic changes has been provided by Bowman, A.K., Garnsey, P. and Rathbone, D. (eds), The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume XII (second edition), The Crisis of Empire, A.D. 193–337 (Cambridge, 2005).

6 Pliny the Elder, Natural History 33.32; Stein, A., Der Römische Ritterstand (Munich, 1927), 30; Wiseman, T.P., ‘The definition of eques Romanus in the late Republic and early Empire’, Historia 19 (1970), 6783, esp. p. 75; Millar, F.G.B., The Emperor in the Roman World (London, 1977), 279. This property qualification still existed in the Antonine period, as shown by an inscription (CIL X 7507) referring to 400,000 sesterces as necessary for enrolment in the decuriae. The minimum age at which one usually could enter the equestrian order was eighteen (Cassius Dio 52.20.1).

7 The various scholarly positions were discussed in detail by Demougin, S., L'ordre équestre sous les Julio-Claudiens (Paris, 1988), 7884, 189–225; what follows is merely a summary of the main points of contention.

8 Ulpian, Tituli 7.1. The term equus publicus dates back to the early Republican period, in which the state provided horses (or the money to purchase them) to members of the cavalry. See Hill, H., The Roman Middle Class in the Republican Period (Oxford, 1952), 1011.

9 Note, for example, CIL IX 23 = ILS 6472 (granted by Hadrian), CIL VIII 20144 (Antoninus Pius), CIL VI 1586 (Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus), CIL XIV 390 (Marcus Aurelius).

10 Wiseman, ‘The definition’ (above, n. 6), 82–3; Millar, The Emperor (above, n. 6), 279–84; Hendersen, M.I., ‘The establishment of the equester ordo’, Journal of Roman Studies 53 (1963), 6172.

11 This was the view of Nicolet, C., L'ordre équestre à l'époque républicaine (Paris, 1966), 177–88; Demougin, L'ordre équestre (above, n. 7), 198; Duncan-Jones, ‘Who were the equites?’ (above, n. 3), 219–20. Rowe, G., Princes and Political Cultures: the New Tiberian Senatorial Decrees (Ann Arbor, 2002), 73, preferred to envisage a broad range of qualifications that signified equestrian status.

12 Duncan-Jones, R.P., ‘Equestrian rank in the cities of the African provinces under the principate: an epigraphic survey’, Papers of the British School at Rome 35 (1967), 147–86, esp. pp. 149–51; Duncan-Jones, ‘Who were the equites?’ (above, n. 3), 219–20.

13 Duncan-Jones, ‘Who were the equites?’ (above, n. 3), 220. The term eques Romanus and its plural equites Romani were the standard terms used in literature to refer to equestrians throughout the Republican and Imperial periods.

14 Augustus: Suetonius, Augustus 37, 39, 46. Gaius: Suetonius, Caligula 16; Cassius Dio 59.9.5. Claudius: Suetonius, Claudius 16. Vespasian: Suetonius, Vespasian 9.

15 Suetonius, Augustus 39; Tacitus, Annals 3.30.

16 That said, the Hadriani Sententiae (6 = Corpus Glossariorum Latinorum III.33) preserves a story concerning the Emperor Hadrian in which he addressed a man petitioning for the equus publicus, discussed by Duncan-Jones, ‘Who were the equites?’ (above, n. 3), 221, and Millar, The Emperor (above, n. 6), 281.

17 Cassius Dio 52.21.3–5.

18 AE 1945, 80. CIL X 6657 = ILS 1387 gives him the slightly different title a(d) census equit(um) Roman(orum). See Pflaum, H.-G., Les carrières procuratoriennes équestres sous le haut-empire romain (Paris, 1960), 598601.

19 Herodian 5.7.7.

20 It is uncertain whether Felix's position is identical with that of the procurator a censibus attested in the Antonine period, as argued by Oliver, J.H., ‘M. Aquilius Felix’, American Journal of Philology 67 (1946), 311–19. See Pflaum, Les carrières (above, n. 18), 600–1, who regarded it as a new title.

21 Codex Theodosianus 6.35.37, 6.35.38, 13.5.16. Regulation of equestrian rank was the subject of an edict to the province of Bithynia issued by Licinius: Codex Theodosianus 8.4.3, 10.7.1, 10.20.1, 12.1.5, with Corcoran, S., The Empire of the Tetrarchs: Imperial Pronouncements and Government ad 284–324, revised edition (Oxford, 2000), 283–4. For discussion of the property qualification, see below, pp. 107–8.

22 This does not exclude the possibility that men who possessed the necessary wealth claimed to be equites in inscriptions and in their public life, as there is certainly evidence for the usurpation of equestrian rank. See Reinhold, M., ‘Usurpation of status and status symbols in the Roman Empire’, Historia 20 (1971), 275302, esp. pp. 281–2.

23 Stein, Der Römische Ritterstand (above, n. 6), 76; Nicolet, L'ordre équestre (above, n. 11), 183–4; Duncan-Jones, ‘Who were the equites?’ (above, n. 3), 185.

24 CIL XI 4209 = ILS 6630.

25 Stein, Der Römische Ritterstand (above, n. 6), 54–9; Duncan-Jones, ‘Equestrian rank’ (above, n. 12), 149–51; Duncan-Jones, ‘Who were the equites?’ (above, n. 3), 219–20.

26 For a general overview of such military monuments, see Hope, V.M., ‘Trophies and tombstones: commemorating the Roman soldier’, World Archaeology 35 (2003), 7997.

27 The sixth legionary tribune, the tribunus laticlavius, was a senator, and notionally second-in-command of the legion: Southern, P., The Roman Army: a Social and Institutional History (Oxford, 2007), 126–7.

28 There were around 300 positions in the militia prima, as praefectus cohortis quingenariae or a tribunus cohortis, compared to nine in the fourth grade, as a praefectus alae milliariae. See the classic study of Birley, E., ‘The equestrian officers of the Roman army’, in Birley, E., Roman Britain and the Roman Army: Collected Papers (Kendal, 1953), 133–53. Nor was military service a prerequisite for procuratorial posts in the imperial government, although it has been estimated that some 85 per cent of equestrian administrators had seen at least one tour of duty as an officer: Brunt, ‘Princeps and equites’ (above, n. 3), 48.

29 Birley, A.R., ‘The commissioning of equestrian officers’, in Wilkes, J.J. (ed.), Documenting the Roman Army: Essays in Honour of Margaret Roxan (London, 2003), 118.

30 Birley, ‘The commissioning of equestrian officers’ (above, n. 29), 2; Birley, ‘The equestrian officers’ (above, n. 28), 135–7; Dobson, B., ‘Legionary centurion or equestrian officer? A comparison of pay and prospects’, Ancient Society 3 (1972), 193207, esp. p. 194; Devijver, H. and Van Wonterghem, F., ‘The funerary monuments of equestrian officers of the late Republic and early Empire in Italy (50 bc–100 ad)’, Ancient Society 21 (1990), 5998, esp. pp. 74–5.

31 CIL III 3237; Birley, E., ‘Septimius Severus and the Roman army’, Epigraphische Studien 8 (1969), 6382, esp. p. 76.

32 These examples are presented in full in Tables 1 and 2, below.

33 Henzen, G., ‘Monumenti: iscrizione militare’, Bullettino dell'Instituto di Corrispondenza Archeologica (1868), 71–3.

34 AE 1956, 252. For Tauricius's career, see Haensch, R., ‘Veteranus ex beneficiario consularis, equestris militiae petitor: mögliche Gründe für einen außergewöhnlichen Aufstieg’, Kölner Jahrbuch 34 (2001), 135–9.

35 CIL VI 3550 = ILS 2759; Stein, Der Römische Ritterstand (above, n. 6), 158.

36 Stein, Der Römische Ritterstand (above, n. 6), 159.

37 CIL III 14403a.

38 It has been estimated that there are approximately 300,000 extant Roman inscriptions: Keppie, L., Understanding Latin Inscriptions (Baltimore, 1991), 9.

39 Centurions: Birley, E., ‘The origins of legionary centurions’, in Birley, Roman Britain and the Roman Army (Kendal, 1953), 104–24. Ex equite Romano: Dobson, ‘Legionary centurion’ (above, n. 30), 193, 196; Dobson, B., ‘The centurionate and social mobility during the principate’, in Nicolet, C. (ed.), Recherches sur les structures sociales dans l'antiquité classique (Paris, 1970), 99115.

40 Dobson, B., Die Primipilares: Entwicklung und Bedeutung, Laufbahnen und Persönlichkeiten eines Römischen Offiziersranges (Bonn, 1978), 116.

41 Dobson, B., ‘The significance of the centurion and primipilaris in the Roman army and administration’, in Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt II.i (Berlin, 1974), 392434, esp. pp. 413–20.

42 Promotion to the centurionate: Breeze, D.J., ‘The organisation of the career structure of the immunes and principales of the Roman army’, Bonner Jahrbücher 174 (1974), 245–92, esp. pp. 273–4; Dobson, B. and Breeze, D.J., ‘The Rome cohorts and the legionary centurionate’, Epigraphische Studien 8 (1969), 100–24, esp. p. 103. Length of service as a centurion: Dobson, ‘The centurionate and social mobility’ (above, n. 39), 101–2.

43 Dobson, Die Primipilares (above, n. 40), 411.

44 For mortality rates among Roman soldiers, see Scheidel, W., Measuring Sex, Age and Death in the Roman Empire: Explorations in Ancient Demography (Journal of Roman Archaeology, Supplementary Series 21) (Ann Arbor, 1996), 124–9.

45 Jarrett, M.G., ‘The African contribution to the imperial equestrian service’, Historia 12 (1963), 209–26, esp. p. 226; Birley, ‘Septimius Severus’ (above, n. 31), 76–7; Birley, E., ‘A Roman altar from Old Kilpatrick and interim commanders of auxiliary units’, Latomus 42 (1983), 7383, esp. p. 83; Devijver, H., ‘Veränderungen in der Zusammensetzung der ritterlichen Offiziere von Septimius Severus bis Gallienus’, in Eck, W. (ed.), Prosopographie und Sozialgeschichte (Cologne, 1993), 205–31, esp. p. 227. See also Birley, ‘The commissioning of equestrian officers’ (above, n. 29), 11; Dobson, ‘The centurionate and social mobility’ (above, n. 39), 104; Handy, M., Die Severer und das Heer (Berlin, 2009), 206.

46 Dobson, ‘The significance’ (above, n. 41), 401; de Blois, L., The Policy of the Emperor Gallienus (Leiden, 1976), 38; Devijver, H., ‘Successoribus acceptis militare desinunt (Digesta, XXVIIII, 1, 21)’, in Devijver, H., The Equestrian Officers of the Roman Imperial Army II (Stuttgart, 1992), 212–21, esp. p. 221.

47 Devijver, H., ‘Les milices équestres et la hiérarchie militaire’, in Le Bohec, Y. (ed.), La hiérarchie (Rangordnung) de l'armée romaine sous le haut-empire (Paris, 1995), 175–91, at p. 184; Handy, Die Severer (above, n. 45), 206–9.

48 Hopkins, K. and Burton, G., ‘Ambition and withdrawal: the senatorial aristocracy under the emperors’, in Hopkins, K., Death and Renewal (Cambridge, 1983), 120220, esp. p. 153.

49 Jones, A.H.M., The Later Roman Empire (Oxford, 1964), II, 637–42; Matthews, J., The Roman Empire of Ammianus (London, 1989), 270.

50 Note, for example, the work of Campbell, B., The Emperor and the Roman Army, 31 bc–ad 235 (Oxford, 1984), 408–9, who demonstrated that the Severan period did not see a sudden ‘militiarization’ of the Roman Imperial government through the promotion of greater numbers of centurions to administrative posts.

51 See, particularly, James, S., ‘Writing the legions: the development and future of Roman military studies in Britain’, Archaeological Journal 159 (2002), 158, on the need to examine Roman soldiers as people, rather than tools of the state.

52 On the epigraphic habit, see MacMullen, R., ‘The epigraphic habit in the Roman Empire’, American Journal of Philology 103 (1982), 233–46. Woolf, G., ‘Monumental writing and the expansion of Roman society in the early Empire’, Journal of Roman Studies 86 (1996), 2239, analysed the diffusion of epigraphic culture throughout the provinces.

53 Hope, ‘Trophies and tombstones’ (above, n. 26), 85; Coulston, J., ‘‘Armed and belted men’: the soldiery in imperial Rome’, in Coulston, J. and Dodge, H. (eds), Ancient Rome: the Archaeology of the Eternal City (Oxford, 2000), 76–118.

54 Lendon, J.E., Empire of Honour: the Art of Government in the Roman World (Oxford, 1997), 239, 245–7.

55 The same point was made in analyses of senatorial and equestrian career inscriptions. See in particular Campbell, The Emperor (above, n. 50), 329–30; Eck, W., ‘Senatorial self-representation: developments in the Augustan period’, in Millar, F. and Segal, E. (eds), Caesar Augustus: Seven Aspects (Oxford, 1984), 129–67; Eck, W., ‘Auf der Suche nach Personen und Persönlichkeiten. Cursus honorum und Biographie’, in Vossing, K. (ed.), Biographie und Prosopographie: Internationales Kolloquium zum 65. Geburtstag von Anthony R. Birley (Stuttgart, 2005), 5372.

56 Devijver, ‘Veränderungen’ (above, n. 45), 219–23. The table does not include the case of Aelius Triccianus (Cassius Dio 78.13.3–4), a soldier who eventually acquired equestrian status, because the exact course of his career is uncertain: Fitz, J., ‘Die Laufbahn des Aelius Triccianus’, Acta Archaeologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 26 (1978), 21–7. His contemporary, Oclatinius Adventus, a praetorian prefect who rose from the ranks (Cassius Dio 78.14.1–2), did not enter the militiae equestres: Rankov, B., ‘M. Oclatinius Adventus in Britain’, Britannia 18 (1987), 243–9.

57 For the case of Atius Va[leria]nus in Table 1, see Kurilić, A., ‘Recent epigraphic finds from the Roman province of Dalmatia’, in Davison, D., Gaffney, V. and Marin, E. (eds), Dalmatia: Research in the Roman Province 1970–2001, Papers in Honour of J.J. Wilkes (Oxford, 2006), 133–47.

58 M. Aurelius Syrio is a special case: he is not recorded as an evocatus of the praetorian guard, but this status is strongly suggested by his Thracian origin and his fictional voting tribe, Ulpia, derived from his home town of Ulpia Nicopolis ad Istrum. See Hassall, M.W.C. and Tomlin, R.S.O., ‘Roman Britain in 1988, II: inscriptions’, Britannia 20 (1989), 327–45, esp. pp. 331–3, and R.S.O. Tomlin, ‘Documenting the Roman army at Carlisle’, in Wilkes (ed.), Documenting the Roman Army (above, n. 29), 175–85, esp. p. 184.

59 They probably received 5,600 sesterces per annum under Severus; this was still well below the stipendium of a centurion, which was 36,000 sesterces per annum in the same period. See Speidel, M.A., ‘Roman army pay scales’, Journal of Roman Studies 82 (1992), 87106, esp. p. 101 n. 105.

60 Brunt, P.A., ‘Pay and superannuation in the Roman army’, Papers of the British School at Rome 18 (1950), 5071, following von Domaszewski, A., ‘Der Truppensold der Kaiserzeit’, Neue Heidelberger Jahrbücher 10 (1900), 218–41, with some modifications, argued that soldiers' salaries rose by two-thirds, to 2,000 sesterces per annum under Severus. Develin, R., ‘The army pay rises under Severus and Caracalla and the question of the annona militaris’, Latomus 30 (1971), 687–95, proposed a lower pay rise of one-third. However, Alston, R., ‘Roman military pay from Caesar to Diocletian’, Journal of Roman Studies 84 (1994), 113–23, noted that a one-third increase would have necessitated the abandonment of the old payment scheme and considered 50 per cent the most likely amount. At the top end of the scale, Speidel, ‘Roman army pay scales’ (above, n. 59), 98–9, argued that Severus doubled army pay.

61 Assuming a 100 per cent increase, legionaries would have been paid 2,400 sesterces each year after Severus's pay rise, resulting in a total income of 48,000 over twenty years. Soldiers seem to have been able to save between twenty and 30 per cent of their annual pay: Campbell, The Emperor (above, n. 50), 179. Even taking into account discharge bonuses (12,000 sesterces) and donatives (the largest recorded being 20,000 sesterces in 161), the equestrian property qualification would have remained far out of reach.

62 Pompeius Niger, a first-century veteran in Egypt, declared property worth only 1,250 sesterces: Rathbone, D., ‘PSI XI 1183: record of a Roman census declaration of A.D. 47/8’, in Gagos, T. and Bagnall, R.S. (eds), Essays and Texts in Honor of J. David Thomas (American Studies in Papyrology 42) (Oakville, 2001), 99113. See also Gilliam, J.F., ‘Notes on Latin texts from Egypt’, in Bingen, J., Cambier, G. and Nachtergael, G. (eds), Le monde grèc. Pensée, littérature, histoire, documents: hommages à Claire Préaux (Brussels, 1975), 766–74, esp. p. 769, who noted that although legionary families could prosper, they were unlikely to be able to achieve the equestrian census.

63 On a standard career reconstruction, they would have spent seven years as praetorian milites, four as sesquiplicarii and then another five as duplicarii. See Breeze, ‘The organisation of the career structure’ (above, n. 42), 257.

64 Herodian 4.4.7, 6.8.8.

65 CIL III 14416.

66 RIB 1791.

67 CIL VI 3550 = ILS 2759.

68 Phang, S.E., The Marriage of Roman Soldiers (13 bcad 235): Law and Family in the Imperial Army (Leiden, 2001), 162.

69 Martialis: CIL VIII 20751. Claudianus: CIL VI 2606 = ILS 2758. Priscus: CIL III 7416. This matter is discussed further below, in conjunction with Table 3.

70 For example, M. Aurelius Emeritus, who is only styled veteranus and militiae petitor on his epitaph (CIL VI 3548).

71 There was a finite number of equestrian posts on offer at any one time, as noted by Saller, R.P., Personal Patronage under the Early Empire (Cambridge, 1982), 50. We might wonder whether some support from fellow-soldiers was also required, as shown in the examples of those men promoted to centurion: Speidel, M.P., ‘Becoming a centurion in Africa: brave deeds and the support of troops as promotion criteria’, in Speidel, M.P., Roman Army Studies II (Stuttgart, 1992), 124–8.

72 Haensch, ‘Veteranus’ (above, n. 34), 135–9. See also Duncan-Jones, ‘Who were the equites?’ (above, n. 3), 216–17, for similar remarks regarding equestrian status and soldiers' sons.

73 Senatorial patronage: Birley, ‘The equestrian officers’ (above, n. 28), 141–2; Birley, ‘The commissioning of equestrian officers’ (above, n. 29), 3; Saller, Personal Patronage (above, n. 71), 46–7; Cotton, H.M., ‘Military tribunates and the exercise of patronage’, Chiron 11 (1981), 229–38.

74 CIL VI 2131 = ILS 4929.

75 Severina also secured a procuratorship for Q. Veturius Callistratus, who praised her in fulsome terms (CIL VI 2132 = ILS 4928).

76 Duncan-Jones, ‘Who were the equites?’ (above, n. 3), 219–20.

77 For example, the epitaph of Iulius Valentinus, son of a strator of the legio II Parthica, must be dated after the formation of the legion by Septimius Severus (CIL VI 32878).

78 Dobson, ‘The centurionate and social mobility’ (above, n. 39), 104–9.

79 CIL VI 273; M.P. Speidel, Die Denkmäler der Kaiserreiter: Equites Singulares Augusti (Bonn, 1994), no. 34.

80 Speidel, Die Denkmäler (above, n. 79), 66.

81 Valens: CIL VI 32878. Catinius: CIL VI 3242 = XI 2625. Tertullus: CIL VIII 4882.

82 There are a few isolated inscriptions in which a man claims to have been born with equestrian rank, such as natus eques Romanus in vico Iugario (CIL VI 1632 = ILS 1318). Stein, Der Römische Ritterstand (above, n. 6), 79, argued that this did not mean ‘born an eques Romanus in the vicus Iugarius’ but ‘an eques Romanus who was born in the vicus Iugarius’. Not everyone has agreed with this interpretation: Millar, The Emperor (above, n. 6), 280.

83 CIL X 3924 = ILS 6305; Castagnoli, F., ‘Sul limite di età degli equites’, Bullettino della Comissione Archeologica Comunale di Roma 73 (1949/50), 8990.

84 See Duncan-Jones, ‘Who were the equites?’ (above, n. 3), 218, listing further examples of young equites; Demougin, S., ‘Eques: un surnom bien romain’, Annali del Seminario di Studi del Mondo Classico, Archeologia e Storia Antica 2 (1980), 158–69, esp. p. 160; Weaver, P.R.C., Familia Caesaris: a Social Study of the Emperor's Freedmen and Slaves (Cambridge, 1972), 289–90.

85 Duncan-Jones, ‘Who were the equites?’ (above, n. 3), 217.

86 Duncan-Jones, ‘Equestrian rank’ (above, n. 12).

87 CIL VIII 14344.

88 CIL VIII 4436 = 18595; CIL VIII 4437 = 18596.

89 The term equus publicus is used on other inscriptions for soldiers' sons as well: CIL III 4327; CIL VI 2477.

90 Second-century emperors also are known to have bestowed equestrian titles on men who had earned their favour: see Nutton, V., ‘L. Gellius Maximus, physician and procurator’, Classical Quarterly 21 (1971), 262–72, esp. pp. 270–1.

91 Pliny the Elder, Natural History 33.32–3; Demougin, S., ‘De l'esclavage à l'anneau d'or du chevalier’, in Nicolet, C. (ed.), Des ordres à Rome (Paris, 1984), 217–41, esp. pp. 218–19; Duncan-Jones, ‘Who were the equites?’ (above, n. 3), 215–16.

92 Note the freedman L. Marius Doryphorus, honoured with gold rings by Commodus, who made no claim to membership of the ordo equester (CIL VI 1847 = ILS 1899).

93 Chastagnol, A., ‘La fin de l'ordre équestre: réflexions sur la prosopographie des derniers chevaliers romains’, Mélanges de l'École Française de Rome 100 (1988), 199206.

94 Codex Theodosianus 6.35.1 = Codex Justinianus 12.32.1.

95 Codex Theodosianus 13.16.pref.

96 Codex Theodosianus 10.7.1

97 This occurred in the senatorial order of the fourth century as well: Jones, The Later Roman Empire (above, n. 49), II, 525–30; Heather, P., ‘New men for new Constantines? Creating an imperial elite in the eastern Mediterranean’, in Magdalino, P. (ed.), New Constantines: the Rhythm of Imperial Renewal in Byzantium, 4th–13th Centuries (Aldershot, 1994), 1133.

98 Equites Romani: M. Ulpius Silvanus (CIL VI 3550 = ILS 2759), Q. Gargilius Martialis (CIL VIII 20751), Ti. Claudius Claudianus (CIL VI 2606 = ILS 2758), Helvidius Priscus (CIL III 7416).

99 Canaliclarius: CIL VI 1110; Clauss, M., ‘Der Canalicularius’, Ancient Society 6 (1975), 251–6; Gilliam, J.F., ‘Canaliclarius and kananiklarios (P. Oxy. XL 2925)’, Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 13 (1976), 4952. Paulinianus: AE 1990, 64. Marcellianus: AE 1902, 77.

100 CIL III 8752.

101 Eck, W., ‘The growth of administrative posts’, in Bowman, A.K., Garnsey, P. and Rathbone, D. (eds), The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume XI (second edition), The High Empire, A.D. 70–192 (Cambridge, 2000), 238–65, esp. p. 262.

102 Birley, ‘The equestrian officers’ (above, n. 28), 142–3; Dobson, ‘Legionary centurion’ (above, n. 30), 199–204; Speidel, ‘Roman army pay scales’ (above, n. 59), 103.

103 The prospect of equestrian officers obtaining procuratorships and other positions has been analysed by Duncan-Jones, ‘Who were the equites?’ (above, n. 3), 195–205.

104 Breeze, ‘The organisation of the career structure’ (above, n. 42), 256–7.

105 Breeze, ‘The organisation of the career structure’ (above, n. 42), 275–8.

106 Dobson, ‘The significance’ (above, n. 41), 411.

107 See Scheidel, Measuring Sex, Age and Death (above, n. 44), 93–138, for mortality rates in the army.

108 Speidel, M.P., ‘Centurions promoted from beneficiarii?’, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 91 (1992), 229–32.

109 Coulston, J., ‘Art, culture and service: the depiction of soldiers on funerary monuments of the 3rd century ad’, in de Blois, L. and Lo Cascio, E. (eds), The Impact of the Roman Army (200 B.C.–A.D. 476): Economic, Social, Political, Religious and Cultural Aspects (Leiden, 2007), 529–65, esp. pp. 533–5; James, S., The Excavations at Dura-Europos conducted by Yale University and the French Academy of Inscriptions and Letters 1928 to 1937, Volume 7: Arms and Armour (London, 2004), 64–5.

110 Lendon, Empire of Honour (above, n. 54), 238–47; Coulston, ‘Art, culture and service’ (above, n. 109), 545.

111 Lendon, J.E., Soldiers and Ghosts: a History of Battle in Classical Antiquity (New Haven, 2005), 276–7.

112 Adams, J.N., ‘The poets of Bu Njem: language, culture and the centurionate’, Journal of Roman Studies 89 (1999), 109–34.

113 Bowman, A.K., ‘Outposts of Empire: Vindolanda, Egypt, and the Empire of Rome’, Journal of Roman Archaeology 19 (2006), 7593, esp. p. 87.

114 CIL XI 3800. The iconography and themes of aristocratic sarcophagi were adopted also by the lower classes, indicating their desire to emulate their social superiors: Koortbojian, M., Myth, Meaning, and Memory on Roman Sarcophagi (Berkeley, 1993).

115 Festinus: CIL VI 2485 = 32648. Secundinus: CIL VI 2488.

116 AE 2004, 206.

117 Eck, W., ‘Rome and the outside world: senatorial families and the world they lived in’, in Rawson, B. and Weaver, P. (eds), The Roman Family in Italy: Status, Sentiment, Space (Oxford, 1997), 7399, esp. pp. 98–9.

118 CIL VIII 20751.

119 CIL VIII 9047 = ILS 2767.

120 CIL III 3237.

121 RIB 989 = ILS 4721.

122 See, for example, CIL III 1486; CIL III 3846; AE 1976, 600.

123 Lendon, Empire of Honour (above, n. 54), 243–7.

124 For a summary of these developments, see Lo Cascio, E., ‘The emperor and his administration: the government and administration of the Empire in the central decades of the third century’, in Bowman, Garnsey and Rathbone (eds), The Cambridge Ancient History … The Crisis of Empire (above, n. 5), 156–69.

125 CIL VIII 2529 = ILS 2291; CIL VIII 2530; CIL VIII 2663; CIL VIII 2670; CIL VIII 4578; CIL VIII 7002; CIL VIII 18288; AE 1919, 26; AE 1919, 28; AE 1973, 630; AE 1993, 1769a–b.

126 CIL VIII 4325; AE 1916, 18; AE 1916, 21.

127 The senator Larcius Macedo, the subject of a memorable letter by Pliny the Younger (Epistula 3.14), comes to mind.

128 Iulius Victorinus, the fifteen-year-old son of a centurion, is described as filius karissimus (CIL III 8156), Tacitius Dubitatus is styled filius optimus et piissimus (CIL VI 2477), while the ten-year-old Aelius Marcellinus is scholasticus (CIL XIII 11834).

129 CIL VI 1595.

130 Rawson, B., Children and Childhood in Roman Italy (Oxford, 2003), 356–63.

131 CIL VI 41432. Note also the Concordia ‘battle sarcophagus’, created for a promising young senator or equestrian in the Antonine period: Francis, J., ‘A Roman battle sarcophagus at Concordia University, Montreal’, Phoenix 54 (2000), 332–7.

132 Mouritsen, H., ‘Freedmen and decurions: epitaphs and social history in Imperial Italy’, Journal of Roman Studies 95 (2005), 3863, esp. pp. 61–2.

133 Birley, ‘Septimius Severus’ (above, n. 31), 63–4; Handy, Die Severer (above, n. 45), 206; Smith, R.E., ‘The army reforms of Septimius Severus’, Historia 21 (1972), 481500, esp. p. 496.

134 Herodian 3.8.4–5.

135 CIL XIV 3948; Devijver and van Wonterghem, ‘The funerary monuments’ (above, n. 30), 63.

136 Mommsen, T., Römisches Staatsrecht (Leipzig, 1887–8), IIA, 894; von Domaszewski, A. and Dobson, B., Die Rangordnung des Römischen Heeres, revised edition (Cologne, 1967), 42.

137 Stein, Der Römische Ritterstand (above, n. 6), 46–7; Duncan-Jones, ‘Who were the equites?’ (above, n. 3), 215–16.

138 CIL VI 2488; D.E.E. Kleiner, Roman Imperial Funerary Altars with Portraits (Rome, 1987), no. 121.

139 Speidel, Die Denkmäler (above, n. 79), 290–2, nos. 531, 533.

140 For example, note CIL III 3970; CIL III 5631; AE 1958, 66; Speidel, Die Denkmäler (above, n. 79), 288 no. 528, and 292 no. 534. See also the images in Coulston, ‘Art, culture and service’ (above, n. 109), 550 (fig. 1), 555 (fig. 6), 556 (fig. 7): these are all third-century grave-stones in which the soldier is grasping a rotulus in his hand but there is no evidence of a ring. A ring also appears on the left hand of Iulius Terentius, tribunus cohortis XX Palmyrenorum, in a fresco at Dura Europos dated c. 239. The object generally is assumed not to be the anulus aureus, and may in fact be a red seal ring. See Cumont, F., Fouilles de Doura-Europos (1922–1923) (Paris, 1926), 93; James, The Excavations (above, n. 109), 63.

141 There are some inscriptions that refer to grants of the gold ring by specific emperors (CIL VI 1847 = ILS 1899; CIL V 4392 = ILS 5631), but it is unlikely that Septimius Severus personally bestowed actual rings on all soldiers throughout the Empire. Instead, he would have given them permission to wear such objects. I am grateful to one of the journal's referees for this point.

142 Damianus: CIL III 6601, discussed in Schallmayer, E., Eibl, K., Ott, J., Preuss, G. and Wittkopf, E., Der Römische Weihebezirk von Osterburken I: Corpus der Griechischen und Lateinischen Beneficiarier-Inschriften des Römischen Reiches (Stuttgart, 1990), 568–9. Vitalis: AE 1990, 752, originally published by Speidel, M.P. and Scardigli, B., ‘Neckarschwaben (Suebi Nicrenses)’, Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt 20 (1990), 201–7.

143 CIL VI 3550 = ILS 2759.

144 CIL VI 273.

145 AE 1976, 494.

146 Campbell, The Emperor (above, n. 50), is the standard work, see esp. pp. 17–156. Domitian: Suetonius, Domitian 7.3; Kraay, C.M., ‘Two new sestertii of Domitian’, American Numismatic Society Museum Notes 9 (1960), 109–16. Marcus Aurelius: Historia Augusta, Commodus 2.2–3; Birley, A.R., Marcus Aurelius (London, 1987), 187–9.

147 Note especially the threats made by the praetorian guard to Nerva (Cassius Dio 68.3.3–4), and the death of Pertinax (Cassius Dio 74.8–10).

148 Duncan-Jones, R.P., Money and Government in the Roman Empire (Cambridge, 1998), 8290, appendix 7.

149 Historia Augusta, Marcus Aurelius 7.9.

150 Speidel, M.P., ‘Commodus the god-emperor and the army’, Journal of Roman Studies 83 (1993), 109–14; Hekster, O., Commodus: an Emperor at the Crossroads (Amsterdam, 2002), 164–8; Campbell, The Emperor (above, n. 50), 49–51. For epithets, see Fitz, J., Honorific Titles of Army Units in the Third Century (Budapest, 1983), and CIL VIII 3163 (Commodiana); CIL III 3907 (Antoniniana); AE 1975, 701 (Maximiniana); AE 1958, 239 (Gordiana).

151 See the account of Birley, A.R., Septimius Severus: the African Emperor (London, 1999), 97104. Severus's deathbed advice to his sons Caracalla and Geta was: ‘Be harmonious, enrich the soldiers, and scorn all other men’ (Cassius Dio 76.15.2).

152 Ginsburg, M., ‘Roman military clubs and their social functions’, Transactions of the American Philological Association 71 (1940), 149–56, esp. pp. 151–2. These collegia were not open to the common soldiers: Smith, ‘The army reforms’ (above, n. 133), 497–8.

153 Ginsburg, ‘Roman military clubs’ (above, n. 152), 153.

154 The optiones erected their schola with statues and images of the imperial family ‘from the plentiful pay and grants which they bestowed on them’ (ex largissimis stipend[ii]s et | liberalitatib(us) quae in eos conferunt, CIL VIII 2554 = ILS 2445). See also CIL VIII 2553 = ILS 2438; ILS 9099; ILS 9100.

155 Duncan-Jones, ‘Who were the equites?’ (above, n. 3), 215–16. For gold rings denoting honestiores, see Garnsey, P., Social Status and Legal Privilege in the Roman Empire (Oxford, 1970), 245–51.

156 Decuriae: Pliny the Elder, Natural History 33.33, discussed by Duncan-Jones, ‘Who were the equites?’ (above, n. 3), 188. Tribunes: Suetonius, Augustus 46.

157 Jarrett, ‘The African contribution’ (above, n. 45), 225–6. His argument is followed by Birley, ‘Septimius Severus’ (above, n. 31), 76; Birley, ‘A Roman altar’ (above, n. 45), 83; Devijver, ‘Veränderungen’ (above, n. 45), 229–30; Devijver, H., ‘Equestrian officers from north Africa’, L'Africa Romana 8 (1990), 127201, esp. p. 190.

158 Jarrett, ‘The African contribution’ (above, n. 45), and Devijver, ‘Veränderungen’ (above, n. 45), both explicitly use the word ‘Romanized’. This term is inherently problematic, and the way it is employed by these scholars implies that the ‘Romanized’ equestrians from the urbanized areas were superior to the military recruits. For critical reflection on the appropriateness of this term, see the essays collected in Mattingly, D. (ed.), Dialogues in Roman Imperialism (Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series 23) (Portsmouth (RI), 1997).

159 Hopkins and Burton, ‘Ambition and withdrawal’ (above, n. 48), 120–200.

160 H. Devijver, ‘The geographical origins of equestrian officers’, in Devijver, The Equestrian Officers of the Roman Imperial Army (above, n. 46), 109–28; Duncan-Jones, ‘Who were the equites?’ (above, n. 3), 189–90.

161 Cassius Dio 77.9.5; Sherwin-White, A.N., The Roman Citizenship, second edition (Oxford, 1973), 380–94.

162 Garnsey, P., ‘Roman citizenship and Roman law in the late Empire’, in Swain, S. and Edwards, M. (eds), Approaching Late Antiquity: the Transformation from Early to Late Empire (Oxford, 2004), 133–55.

163 P.Flor. 50; Devijver, H., De Aegypto et Exercitus Romano sive Prosopographia Militiarum Equestrium quae ab Augusto ad Gallienum seu Statione seu Origine ad Aegyptum Pertinebant (Leuven, 1975), 54.

164 El-Abbadi, M.A.H., ‘P. Flor. 50 reconsidered’, Proceedings of the XIV International Congress of Papyrologists, Oxford, 24–31 July 1974 (London, 1975), 91–6; Banaji, J., Agrarian Change in Late Antiquity: Gold, Labour, and Aristocratic Dominance, revised edition (Oxford, 2007), 110. A significant proportion of equestrian officers from Egypt came from the Alexandrian aristocracy: Devijver, H., ‘The Roman army in Egypt (with special reference to the militiae equestres)’, in Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt II.i (Berlin, 1974), 452–92, esp. p. 489.

165 Devijver, De Aegypto (above, n. 163), 32. For further examples, see the catalogue in Devijver, H., ‘A new papyrus (P. Egypt. Mus. Inv. S.R. 3055) and the equestrian officers from Roman Egypt’, Ancient Society 25 (1994), 233–48.

166 This process is discussed in detail in my doctoral thesis: C. Davenport, The Senatorial and Equestrian Orders in the Roman Army and Administration, ad 235–337 (University of Oxford, D.Phil. thesis, 2009), 240–62.

167 Codex Justinianus 12.33.2 (Diocletian and Maximian), Codex Theodosianus 12.1.38 (Valentinian and Valens). See the discussion of Millar, F.G.B., ‘Empire and city, Augustus to Julian: obligations, excuses and status’, Journal of Roman Studies 73 (1983), 7696, esp. p. 86.

168 Whittow, M., ‘Ruling the late Roman and early Byzantine city: a continuous history’, Past and Present 129 (1990), 329; Heather, P., ‘Running the empire: bureaucrats, curials, and senators’, in Gwynn, D.M. (ed.), A.H.M. Jones and the Later Roman Empire (Leiden, 2008), 91119, esp. pp. 115–16.

169 Handy, Die Severer (above, n. 45), 207–8; Devijver, ‘Les milices équestres’ (above, n. 47), 184.

170 Duncan-Jones, ‘Who were the equites?’ (above, n. 3), 199–205.

171 Dobson, ‘The significance’ (above, n. 41), 402. There is no significant rise in the number of former centurions or primipilares in such posts in the early third century: Campbell, The Emperor (above, n. 50), 408–9.

172 I have incurred many debts in researching and writing this paper, which originally formed part of my doctoral research at the University of Oxford. I would like to express my thanks to the Trustees of the John Crampton Travelling Scholarship for funding my study at Oxford, and to the British School at Rome for the grant of a Rome Award, which enabled me to study several inscriptions in person. Earlier drafts of this article have benefited from the helpful comments of Professor Alan Bowman, Dr Richard Duncan-Jones, Dr Jennifer Manley, Dr Meaghan McEvoy, and audience members at a Classics and Ancient History seminar at The University of Queensland. I am also very grateful to the Editor of the Papers of the British School at Rome and the journal's anonymous referees for their advice and criticism, which have much improved the published version. Needless to say, I bear final responsibility for the arguments advanced in this paper.

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