Base for statue of Flavius Archontius Nilus, military commander and governor (comes et praeses) of Tripolitania, patron of Lepcis (later re-used for LSA-2173). Lepcis Magna (Tripolitania). 355-361.

In 17 lines :

Nilii. Nili[i]. / Vigiliis atque consilio domi forisque prae/stanti, integritate praecipuo, iustitia et iu/diciorum moderatione perpenso, instaura/tori moenium publicorum, ordinis ci(vi)umque om/nium salutis providentissimo, custodi verita/tis, honestatis et fidei amicissimo, /(8) Flavio Archontio Nilo v(iro) p(erfectissimo), comiti et praesidi / prov(inciae) Trip(olitanae), patrono optimo, ob infinita eius be/neficia, quibus vel separatim vel cum omni pro/vincia sublevati ac recreati Lepcimagnenses /(12) gratulamur, uno consensu ordinis viri / secundam statuam decreverunt eamque / propter praecipuum eius meritum singu/laremque praestantiam in Severiano /(16) foro ad sempiternam posteritatis me/moriam constituendam curaverunt.

'(Statue of) Nilus. (Statue of) Nilus. To a man outstanding in vigilance and advice at home and abroad (= in peace and war), foremost by integrity, measured by justice and the moderation of his judgements, the restorer of public buildings, a most far-seeing guardian of the safety of the council (ordo) and of all citizens, safeguarder of truth and the greatest friend of honesty and loyalty, Flavius Archontius Nilus, of perfectissimus rank, military commander (comes) and governor (praeses) of the province of Tripolitania. To the best patron, on account of his infinite good deeds by which both separately and with the entire province they have been raised and reborn, the people of Lepcis Magna (Lepcimagnenses) show their joy; unanimously the men of the council (ordo) decreed a second statue, and because of his exceptional merit and his unique excellence they took care that it was set up in the Severan forum to the eternal memory of future generations.'

Letter height 2-4 cm.

Monolithic base of Proconnesian marble, moulded at top and bottom; H 115, W 80, D 80 cm. This base belongs to the nucleus of architectonic elements from the Severan period later re-used for inscriptions. Its dimensions and the sequence of mouldings are identical with the pedestals from the Severan nymphaeum. The right side and both corners on the left side of the upper moulding are broken. The top face is roughly finished with a claw and has a single rectangular hole, slightly off centre. This is probably a dowel hole to fix the plinth of a marble statue.

Our inscription is surrounded by a flat frame in low relief. The centre of the epigraphic field displays a shallow cavity of rectangular form; this indicates a moulded frame that surrounded an earlier (first use) inscription which was erased to make way for the present inscription. The base was re-used for a second time in 377/8 for the inscription to Nicomachus Flavianus carved on the opposite side of our inscription (LSA-2173).

The inscription was first recorded on the Severan forum, on the eastern part of the square, where it is still standing today.

Flavius Archontius Nilus, the honorand, was military commander and provincial governor (comes et praeses) of Tripolitania; he was of equestrian (perfectissimus) rank (line 8). He was honoured with another statue on the Old forum with an almost identical inscription, probably shortly before this one was set up (LSA-2185). Moreover, he is probably recorded in a building inscription that mentions the Hadrianic baths (Tantillo & Bigi 2010 no. 75; PLRE I, 632 Nilus 1).

Our inscription was set up by the civic bodies of Lepcis Magna (lines 11-12). It is different from the otherwise almost identical dedication from the Old forum (LSA-2185), since it mentions both the people (Lepcimagnenses, line 11) and the council (ordinis viri, line 12), while in the other one only the people appear. This difference could be due solely to a mistake by the stonecutter.

The date for Nilus’ time in office is provided by two inscriptions from the castellum of Talalati (ILAfr 11 = CIL VIII 22766 + 22767) which date from the joint reigns of Constantius II Augustus and Julian Caesar. The terminus post quem is therefore the elevation of Julian to the rank of Caesar in 355, the terminus ante quem Constantius’ death in 361.

The linking of civic and military office, as documented for Nilus, is shared in Lepcis Magna by the comes et praeses Nepotianus (LSA-2187). It appears to be a phenomenon of the reign of Constantius II that some governors of endangered provinces were also invested with military powers.

Ignazio Tantillo & Francesca Bigi

Main Reference

Tantillo, I. and F. Bigi (eds.), Leptis Magna. Una città e le sue iscrizioni in epoca tardoromana, Cassino 2010, 389-391, no.40, figs. 8.6, 10.47-48, pl. IX

Reynolds, J. M. & J. B. Ward-Perkins, The Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania. In collaboration with S. Aurigemma, R. Bartoccini, G. Caputo, R. Goodchild, P. Romanelli, Roma 1952, no. 562

Discussion References

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum; , VIII

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