Base for statue of Maximian, emperor. Rome, Forum. 293-296

In 10 lines. Letter height: 7-3.5 cm.

Magno et Invicto ac / super omnes retro / principes, fortissimo / Imp(eratori) Caes(ari) M(arco) Aur(elio) Valerio / Maximiano, Pio, Fel(ici), / Invicto Aug(usto), co(n)s(uli) IIII, / p(atri) p(atriae), proco(n)s(uli). / Septimius Valentio, v(ir) p(erfectissimus), / a(gens) v(icem) praeff(ectorum) praett(orio) cc(larissimorum) vv(irorum), / d(evotus) n(umini) m(aiestati)q(ue) eius.

'To the great and invincible and, above all previous emperors, most powerful emperor Caesar Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus, pious, fortunate, invincible Augustus, consul for the fourth time, father of the country, proconsul. Septimius Valentio, of perfectissimus rank, representative of the praetorian prefects of clarissimus rank, (set this up), devoted to his divine spirit and majesty.'

The name and titles of the awarder are in smaller letters to those of the emperor. The lines are not straight, and are mainly aligned to the left. The style of the letters is aptly described as 'litteris pessimis' in CIL.

White marble base with grey veins. 123 x 80 x 68 cm. The base has a moulding on all sides at the bottom (but not at the top), and the epigraphic field is framed on all sides. The epigraphic field is deep and rough, with clear traces of the erasure of a previous inscription. The base is in a good state of preservation, with slight damage to the right moulding. An unrelated marble statue with plinth was placed on top of it in modern times, making it impossible to examine the top.

The base was discovered in 1530, in the proximity of the building then known as the aedes Penatium on the Velia, now the so-called 'Tempio di Romolo' - the round structure of Maxentian date connecting the via Sacra in the Roman Forum to the Vespasianic Temple of Peace (Lanciani 1998, 299). It is also reported as having been discovered at the base of the Palatine hill, in front of the church of S. Maria Nova (modern S. Francesca Romana) (CIL). Strictly speaking the slope of the Palatine hill extended as far as the via Sacra, where the clivus Palatinus starts, making the two identifications compatible. The base is now on display in the Galleria Chiaramonti of the Vatican Museums.

Maximian was Augustus from 286-305. The base was dedicated when he was consul for the fourth time, between 293 (year of his term) and 296 - his fifth consulship started in 297. The most likely dates would be the year of inauguration of his term as consul (see 'further discussion' below), or the year when his decennalia began to be commemorated, 294 (Porena 2003, 139 n.58).

The awarder, 'deputy of the praetorian prefects' (sometimes called vicar, vicarius), was the official in charge of the diocese of Italy, perhaps specifically responsible for Suburbicarian Italy (Jones) or just Rome (Porena 2003, 139-140). Septimius Valentio had already been governor (praeses) of Raetia in 290 (PLRE I, 937 Valentio).

This inscription is an important document for the administrative history of Italy during the tetrarchic period. The position of 'deputy of the praetorian prefects' already existed in the third century as a temporary appointment, but it became permanent under Diocletian and Maximian, when the government of the empire was reorganized with the subdivision of the previously existing provinces and the re-organization of the praetorian prefecture (Jones 1964, 42-52). Septimius Valentio is one of the earliest deputies recorded, and it is possible that the inauguration of Maximian's and Diocletian's consulship, the appointment of two Caesars as joint-rulers, and the creation of the position of agens vicem praefectorum praetorio (and the dedication of this statue) took place in the same year, 293. The inscription also confirms the hypothesis that under the tetrarchs the praetorian prefecture remained divided in two, subordinated to the Augusti only (Porena 2003, 140).

Septimius Valentio, our awarder, set up another statue, to Diocletian, when he held office as provincial governor of Raetia II (LSA-2643).

Carlos Machado

Main Reference

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum; , VI, 1125 (+p.4326)

Discussion References

Jones, A. H. M., The Later Roman Empire, 2 vols., Oxford 1964, pp. 42-52

Jones, A. H. M. et al., The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire. Vol. I 260-395, Cambridge et al. 1971 (1975), p. 937 (Valentio)

Lanciani, R., Storia degli scavi di Roma e notizie intorno le collezioni romane di antichità. vol. 1 (1000-1530), Rome 1998,

Porena, P., Le origini della prefettura del pretorio tardoantica, Rome 2003,