Since I am too busy this week to spare many words, I thought I would post some pictures instead. This relief from a sarcophagus belongs to the Palazzo Ducale, Mantua. The caption dates it to the second quarter of the second century CE and labels it as a battle of Greeks and Amazons, but the barbarians look awfully masculine to me.
Emperor Maximilian’s memorial at the Hofkirche is one of the most impressive monuments of Innsbruck. Being an early modern aristocrat, he made extravagant plans which could not be fully carried out after his death. A number of bronze busts of Roman emperors, which my guidebook tells me were meant to be part of a set of 34, are relics of these early plans. When I first saw them, I was surprised by some of his choices of emperors.
Some of the choices are no surprise. Here is Julius Caesar, who had priority by age and military glory.
But we also have Nero, whom both pagan and Christian writers despised.
We have Hadrian, one of the few emperors who retains a good reputation today.
Yet we also have Philip the Arab:
Philip the Arab was one of the long list of third-century emperors who took the throne upon his precessor’s violent death, spent a few years running around fighting fires, and then lost a battle to the next emperor. He held Rome for more than five years, which was better than most claimants managed, and was said to have been a secret Christian, which would have endeared him to medieval readers. (Critical historians have since observed that this idea first appears in the Christian historian Eusebius sixty years after Philip’s death, and that Philip’s public actions show no sign of a special sympathy to Christianity). He also lost a war to Shapur King of Kings and was forced to withdraw from Persian territory and pay tribute. Roman writers were vague about the details, but since Maximilian’s day one of Shapur’s monuments commemorating his triumph has been published, and another inscription corraborates it. Because it is so rare to have an account of a Roman defeat by one of Rome’s enemies, this inscription has become very famous and is strongly associated with Philp’s name. A scholarly account of Philip’s reign is available at De Imperatoris Romanis, while Judith Weingarten has a thoughtful and colourful version on her blog.
What a difference a single new source can make. I wonder whether one ancient emperor was as good as another to Maximillian, or if rumors of Christianity were enough to balance out assinuations of treason and a checkered military career.
In the early Roman Empire, it was fashionable for wealthy soldiers to put up a stone with an inscription and their portrait at their tomb. Two such soldiers were Quintus and Lucius Sertorius, who erected their monuments at Cisolino (about 10 miles east of Verona) sometime in the late first century CE.
The slab at the left belongs to Quintus Sertorius Festus. The rod in his right hand indicates that he was a centurion with the right to beat soldiers. The inscription reads Q SERTORIUS/L. F POB FESTUS/CENTUR LEG XI CLAUDIAE PIAE/FIDELIS or in English “Quintus Sertorious Festus, Lucius’ son, of the tribe Poblilia, centurion of legio XI Claudia Pia Fidelis.”
The slab at the right belongs to Lucius Sertorius Firmus. The eagle standard (aquila) in his right hand indicates that he was the aqulifer or bearer of the sacred standard of the legion. The Clauss-Slaby database transcribes the inscription as L(ucius) Sertorius L(uci) f(ilius) / Pob(lilia) Firmus / signif(er) aquil(ifer) leg(ionis) XI / Claud(iae) Piae Fidelis / missus curat(or) veter(anorum) / leg(ionis) eiusdem / Domitiae L(uci) f(iliae) / Priscae uxori. I translate that as “Lucius Sertorius, son of Lucius, of the tribe Poblilia, standard bearer and aquilifer of legio XI Claudia Pia Fidelis, honorably discharged, curator of the veterans of the same legion, (dedicates this monument) to Domitia Lucius’ daughter and Prisca his wife.”
Behind the standing slabs is an altar with a third inscription. It reads DIS MANIBUS / L . SERTORIO / L . F . POB / SISENNAE / PATRI / TERENTIAE . L . F / MAXIMAE MATRI. The altar was dedicated “to the memory of Lucius Sertorius Sisenna, Lucius’ son, of the tribe Poblilia, father, and of Terentia Maxima, Lucius’ daughter, mother.” The altar would have been erected at their tomb, and Quintus and Lucius probably intended to be buried at the same place when they died.
The inscriptions were eventually printed in the Corpus Inscriptionorm Latinarum as numbers CIL 5, 3374 (Quintus), 5, 3375 (Lucius), and 5, 3347 (parents). Some thoughtful scholars in Germany have digitized that volume on the Arachne website.
These inscriptions compactly describe a small family: Lucius Sertorius Sisenna and Terentia Maxima the parents, their children Quintus Sertorius Festus, Lucius Sertorius Firmus, and Domitia, and Prisca the wife of the younger Lucius. We might guess that Lucius was the elder brother, since he received his father’s praenomen, was already discharged, received what was probably the higher office, and erected the more splendid monument. In the Roman empire, people often put up monuments to themselves while alive, since life was uncertain and erecting the monument while living was a way to make sure that one would have it in death. The stone probably dates to the late first century CE, since legio XI was given the rolling title legio XI Claudia pia fidelis (“Claudius’ trusty and loyal eleventh legion”) in the year 42, and as Jona Lendering writes that successive emperors moved the legion further and further from Italy (source). An art historian or epigrapher might be able to date it more closely based on the style or the letter forms, but I am travelling and cannot check whether one has done so. For the same reason, I cannot explain what a curator of the veterans did or whether aquiliferi commonly took that role when they retired.
The Sertorii were clearly proud of their achievements and their family. They now sit in a quiet portico of the Museo Lapidario Maffeiano, Verona, where they are still telling passers-by about themselves.