Sabinus (A Soldier)

By
Elisabeth Campbell
Elisabeth Campbell is a graduate student in the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology, based in the Classics Department. Her interests include Roman history and archaeology, and she is currently working on her dissertation on the commemoration of victories in the Roman Republic.
  • Accession Number: JHUAM 52 (Wilson 11)
  • Measurements: Height: 27.4 cm, Width: 65.2 cm, Thickness: 7.5 cm
  • Material: Marble
  • Date/Culture: Roman, 2nd century CE.
  • Provenance: Via Ostiensis, Rome, Italy

Translation

“To the Spirits of the Dead
Lucius Valerius Sabinus, son of Lucius, from  Flavium Noviodunum; he lived 40 years.
He served 16 years in the Second Praetorian Cohort “Pia Vindex Severiana” of Gaianus.
Lucius Valerius Victorinus, soldier of the same cohort mentioned above,
most pious brother and heir, made[ this] to the well-deserving [man].”

Description

This inscription is an epitaph of a soldier who served in the Praetorian Guard (the bodyguard of the emperor). It opens with an invocation to the spirits of the dead, the Manes.  This text shows an engraver’s error at the end of line 1; the Roman number “XI” appears here suggesting that Lucius Valerius died at the age of 11.  This cannot be true as the inscription claims that he served in the military for 16 years.  The error was likely meant to read “XL” (forty), rather than “XI” (eleven).

Valerius was from Flavium Noviodunum, a town in modern-day Slovenia. He served in the second cohort of the Praetorians. Roman units often had individual names, and this one was named “Pious defender.” The term Severiana indicates that the unit was formed under the emperor Septimius Severus who ruled from 193-211 CE. The tomb was dedicated by the deceased’s brother Lucius Valerius Victorinus who was also his heir.

The inscription is dated to the late second, early third century CE. It was found near the Via Ostiensis that connected the city of Rome to its port Ostia. Even though Valerius was from the province Pannonia, he was buried in Rome where he had served and died.

References

H.L. Wilson, “Latin Inscriptions at the Johns Hopkins University III,” American Journal of Philology  30 (1909), 153-170, 159-60.

The inscription is described in the US Epigraphy Project hosted by Brown University.