Base for statue of Diocletian, emperor. From Oescus (Dacia Ripensis). 290-291

In eleven lines:

Imp(eratori) Caes(ari) C(aio) Aurel(io) / Val(erio) Diocletiano, / p(io), f(elici), invic(to) Aug(usto), pon[t(ifici)] / max(imo), Germanic[o] / (5) max(imo), trib(uniciae) potes[t(atis)], / p(atri) p(atriae), proco(n)s(uli). / Afranius Hanni/balianus, Iul(ius) As[c?]/lepiodotus, v(iri) / (10) emm(inentissimi), prae[f(ecti) pr(aetorio)], / d(evoti) n(umini) m(aiestati) [q(ue) e(ius)].

'To the emperor Caesar Caius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus, pious, fortunate, unconquered Augustus, highest priest, greatest victor over the Germans, holder of tribunician power, father of the fatherland, proconsul. Afranius Hannibalianus [and] Iulius Asclepiodotus, both of eminentissimus rank, praetorian prefects, devoted to his divine spirit and majesty, [set this up].'

Letter height: 5 - 6 cm.

We reproduce the inscription in our own reading from the picture provided by Gerov 1989. Gerov’s published reading does not take account of the loss of the final letters of lines 3-5 and 8 (see below, 'Description').

DESCRIPTION (from Gerov 1989, Sarnowski 1999, and the published photos)
Rectangular limestone block with moulding at top (on the front, left, and right sides): H 120, W 68, D 56 cm. Gerov describes the moulding as decorated with a vine-leaf and a lizard ('in acroterio folium vineae et lacerta'), but these are not visible in the published photos. The upper right corner of the moulding is broken, and a major break at the lower right corner has removed parts of the final three lines of the inscription. The right edge is chipped, destroying the final letters of lines 3-5. The epigraphic field is rough, probably a sign of re-use.

On the opposite face of the block is a dedication by a primipilarius to Liber Pater (a fertility god often identified with Dionysus), which is probably later than our inscription (see LSA-2596, where the arguments are presented for dating this inscription to the Constantinian period, or after). This face, with the dedication to Liber Pater, is smoother than that with our inscription, and has more elaborate mouldings.

The block is described as an altar (ara) by Gerov 1989; however the epigraphic formula (with the honorand in the dative, the awarders in the nominative, and a familiar closing statement of loyalty) makes it almost certain that our block was a statue base.

Excavated in 1906 in the military camp of Oescus on the Danube (http://www.trismegistos.org/place/29839), and moved to the Sofia museum. There is no published inv. no; Gerov 1989 however cites a photograph number, 85 C.

The honorand, Diocletian, was Augustus 284-305. In 286, he adopted the name Aurelius, which provides one terminus post quem for our inscription.

One of our two praetorian prefect awarders, Iulius Asclepiodotus, held this office in 290-6 (PLRE I, 115-16 Asclepiodotus 3), which raises the terminus post quem for our inscription to 290. The other awarder, Afranius Hannibalianus, held the prefecture between 286 and 292 (PLRE I, 407-8 Hannibalianus 3). Both men together held the consulship in 292, which is not mentioned in our inscription, nor the clarissimus rank which they received with that office. Our inscription therefore cannot be earlier than 290 and must pre-date the start of 292.

It is likely that this dedication to Diocletian was accompanied by another one to his colleague Maximian.

Ulrich Gehn

Main Reference

Gerov, B., Inscriptiones Latinae in Bulgaria repertae, Sofia 1989, pp.13-14 no. 8 a, pl. 2

Discussion References

Barnes, T. D., The New Empire of Diocletian and Constantine, Cambridge (Mass.) 1982,

Sarnowski, T., Die Principia von Novae im späten 4. und frühen 5. Jh., v. Bülow, G. &- Milceva, A. (eds.), Der Limes an der unteren Donau von Diokletian bis Heraklios. Vorträge der Internationalen Konferenz Svistov, Bulgarien (1.-5. September 1998) , 1999, p. 61 n. 35