Base for statue of Lucius Caesonius Ovinius Manlius Rufinianus Bassus, urban prefect and patron. From Aversa (Campania). Late third century

In 22 lines:

L(ucio) Caesonio Ovinio Manlio / Rufiniano Basso, c(larissimo) v(iro), cons(uli) II, / pontif(ici) maiori, pontif(ici) dei / Solis, salio Palatino, prae/fecto urbis, comiti Augg(ustorum), /(6) iudici sacrarum cognitio/num vice Caesaris sine appel/lationem (sic) cognoscendi inter / fiscum et privatis (sic) item inter /(10) privatos Roma et in provinc(ia) / Africa, electo a divo Probo / ad pr(a)e[side]ndum iud(icio) mag(no), / proco(n)s(uli) provinc(iae) Afric(ae) tertium, / curat(ori) col(oniae) Carthag(iniensium), leg(ato) pro/vinc(iae) Afric(ae) Carthag(iniensis), curat(ori) /(16) albei (sic) Tiberi(s) et cluacarum (sic) / sac(rae) urb(is), curat(ori) r(ei) p(ublicae) Venevent(anorum) (sic), / praet(ori) cand(idato), quaes(tori) cand(idato), / seviro turmae deducendae, /(20) triumviro kapitali, / patrono praestantissimo, / Caesonius Achilleus, lib[ert]us, pos(uit).

’To Lucius Caesonius Ovinius Manlius Rufinianus Bassus, of clarissimus rank, consul (suffect) for the second time, higher priest (pontifex maior), priest of the Sun god, member of the priestly college of the palatine salii, prefect of the City, count of the emperors, judge in the imperial court of appeal representing the Caesars without further appeal, with juridical power in matters related to the imperial fisc and private matters, and also among private individuals in Rome and in the province of Africa, elected by the deified Probus for the presidency of the greater court of appeal, governor (proconsul) of the province of Africa
for three years in a row, curator of the city (colonia) of Carthage, legate of the province of Africa Carthaginiensis, officer in charge of the banks of the Tiber and of the sewers (curatori albei Tiberis et cloacarum) of the sacred City, curator of the city (res publica) of Beneventum, candidate to the praetorship, candidate to the quaestorship, member of the board of commanders of squadrons [of equites], member of the board of three men in charge of prisons and executions (triumviro kapitali), most outstanding patron; Caesonius Achilleus, freedman, set [this] up.’

Letter height not recorded.

We reproduce the inscription with the completions suggested by Barbieri 1964.

DESCRIPTION (from Barbieri 1964 and the published image)
Rectangular statue base, H 130, W 65, D 65 cm. The epigraphic field is framed. There is a round hole in the centre of the epigraphic field. This was for a tube when the block was used as a fountain in a later period; Barbieri 1964, 41 recorded traces of rust at the fringes of the hole. The hole destroyed some letters in line 12 (see below, ’Honorand, Awarder and Date’, and ’Further Discussion’). Also, Barbieri 1964, 41 recorded a second hole in the front face, below the epigraphic field.

The inscription was first recorded in Aversa (area of Napoli; http://www.trismegistos.org/place/32388), in the courtyard of the convent of the Benedictine monks attached to the church of S. Biagio, before 1964.

It was subsequently brought to the National Museum, Naples; there it was recorded in the colonnaded courtyard by Barbieri 1964, 40 (without published inv. no.).

Lucius Caesonius Ovinius Manlius Rufinianus Bassus, the honorand, was of senatorial (clarissimus rank (PLRE I, 156-7 L. Caesonius Ovinius Manlius Rufinianus Bassus 18). Our inscription gives a strikingly long and detailed cursus honorum in descending order, and with several senatorial priestly offices. Bassus’ career started with the offices of triumvir kapitalis and sevir turmae deducendae (lines 19-20); these offices which belong to the vigintivirate, traditionally held at the beginning of a senatorial career, are usually not recorded in our period. Bassus‘ cursus honorum culminates in a second consulship ( consuli II, line 2), and the office of prefect of the city of Rome ( praefecto urbis, lines 4-5).

Bassus‘ name does not appear in the consular fasti; his second consulship, as his first, must therefore have been suffect. A secure terminus post quem for our inscription is Bassus‘ presidency in the iudicium magnum, probably a senatorial court of appeal in Rome, to which he was appointed by the emperor Probus (Augustus 276-82) (lines 11-12; see also below ’Further Discussion’); Probus is styled divus in our inscription which gives a secure TPQ of 282. Our inscription counts three further judicial offices, plus the court office of comes Augustorum duorum (probably Carus and Carinus in 283, or Carinus and Numerianus in 283/4; or possibly Diocletian and Maximian in 286/93) before he became prefect of the city; it is almost certain that he held his highest offices some years after 282. Barbieri 1964 suggested that he held both offices, his second consulship and the prefecture of the city in 285; PLRE considered him identical with the Bassus who held suffect consulship together with Diocletian in 283/4 (PLRE I, 151 Bassus 2).

Our inscription was set up to his patron (line 21) by Bassus‘ freedman Caesonius Achilleus, apparently as a personal dedication, rather than as a representative of the city of Aversa or of any of its institutions.

Bassus‘ cursus honorum is, as Barbieri 1964, 42 pointed out, one the most detailed known from the later 3rd century; for a full discussion of his career the reader is referred to his article, and additionally to Panciera 1967.

The reading of the office recorded in line 12 is insecure because the text is destroyed at this point (see above, ’Description’). However, Barbieri 1964 convincingly argued that this was the iudicial office of presidency of the greater court of appeal (ad praesidendum iudicio magno); we fully adopt this view (see discussion in Barbieri 1964, 44-6).

Bassus is on record with three further honorific inscriptions (Panciera 1967, 18-37). One, in Napoli (CIL X, 1687; Panciera 1967, 21), records only the first senatorial offices, ending with the pretorship. It must have been set up when Bassus was still a young man and is therefore not included in our record. The highest offices recorded by an inscription in Latina (Panciera 1967, 18-19) are those of legatus Carthaginis (a high ranking subordinate of the proconsul Africae) and of curator Carthaginis; Bassus held both offices some time before 276/82 (recorded in our inscription in lines 14-15; after these, Bassus was proconsul Africae for three years, still before 276/82, line 13); this inscription is also excluded from our record. A fragmentary inscription in Rome (AE 1945, 21; Panciera 1967, 21) styles Bassus consularis; however, this possibly refers to his first consulship suffect, and there is no clue as to a later date.

Ulrich Gehn with Carlos Machado, discussion added 5/15

Main Reference

L'Année épigraphique, , 1964, 223; 1980, 215

Barbieri, G., Nuove iscrizioni campane, Akten des IV. Internationalen Kongresses für griechische und lateinische Epigraphik, Wien 1962, Vienna 1964, 40-50

Discussion References

Jones, A. H. M. et al., The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire. Vol. I 260-395, Cambridge et al. 1971 (1975), 156-7 Bassus 18; 152 Bassus 2

Panciera, S. Miscellanea storico-epigrafica III, Epigraphica. Rivista Italiana di Epigrafia 29, Milano 1967, 18-61