Full Version: Question on Decuriones and Praefecti in Civilian functions.
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Hello all, I am doing some research into the libertini of the principate and i come across a lot of references to the
"title" of Decurion and even Praefectus, but i thought previousely those names would be reserved for military personnell only.

Can anyone shed some light on the reason why these basically military titles were also used in civilian life ?

Decuriones are the members of the ruling elite of a (provincial) town. A Praefectus is simply an official in charge of something. This can be both military or civilian.
ah ok !! i was getting a bit amazed on all the varied stratifications in Roman society...

Liberti becoming seviri augustales, decuriones, even eques later in the empire, but not equestris, its a large subject and difficult to grasp apart from time to time reading the funny stuff like liberti usurping rank which is not their own, demonstratively sitting in rows in the theatre not allocated to them, buying purple clothes, trying to get into the military and what have you...

Quote:Can anyone shed some light on the reason why these basically military titles were also used in civilian life ?
They always did so: compare the praetor (from prae-ire: marching in the first line) and the consul, which probably means something like "dancing together" (an archaic war dance?). (The original title of the consul was iudex.)
Quote:Decuriones are the members of the ruling elite of a (provincial) town.
You may find this piece interesting. The first relief, BTW, is one of my all time favorites; it's just beautiful.
Thank you Jona! i have to write a paper on Libertini and social mobility in the Roman empire (Principate) for my Prof, Tacoma, got a large literature list, from Weaver to D'Arms, and have to cut down on it, which i personally find difficult.. Dont want to write too much about the Familia Caesaris, but rather about lesser known Libertini et cetera....

Thanx for the info !!


*this subject also revives an old dispute i have over my Roman name, some say the Vibius Maurinus is an indication of former servile status, ie son of a freedman, however the grave stone of Vibius in my opinion indicates a voting tribe in Mérida which clearly belongs to Ingenui and not Freedmen.
Henrik Mouritsen, in 'Freedmen and Decurions: Epitaphs and Social History in Imperial Italy' (JRS 95, 2005) estimates that around 50% of the attested decurions of the city of Ostia were of freedman status - many of them directly adlected into the curia rather than elected as duumviri. This must have been a pretty good bargain - as decurions were supposed to spend so much on the city, the council gets access to the wealth of the freedman (and he would have to be pretty wealthy!), while the freedman gets the social status and dignity of the decurionate. There was supposed to be a minimum age of 25 for entry into the curia (by election), although Mouritsen also mentions a wealthy townsmen trying to get his six-year-old son onto the council! I guess these rules became increasingly flexible as the centuries passed... There's been a lot of work recently on the social networks of both Ostia and Pompeii - it might be worth looking at Mary Beard's recent book on the latter, if you haven't already, for some pithy stuff on the subject.

About praefects - Smith's Dictionary has this to say:

Quote:In some Italian towns there was a praefectus juri dicundo; he was in the place of, and not co-existent with, duumviri. The duumviri were, as we have seen, originally chosen by the people; but the praefectus was appointed annually in Rome (Liv. XXVI.16), and sent to the town called a praefectura, which might be either a municipium or a colonia, for it was only in the matter of the praefectus that a town called a praefectura differed from other Italian towns. Capua, which was taken by the Romans in the second Punic war, was made a praefectura (Vell. II.44, and the note of Reimarus on Dion Cassius, XXXVIII.7). Arpinum is called both a municipium and a praefectura (Cic. ad Fam. XIII.11; Festus, s.v. Praefectura); and Cicero, a native of this place, obtained the highest honours that Rome could confer.

This is from the article on 'The Roman Colony', here on Lacus Curtius:


Just a last thought on freedmen (or freedmens' sons, actually) and the equestrian order - Horace (the poet) was the son of a freedman, but served as military tribune in the army of the 'Liberators' at Philippi. Either Brutus and Co were so starved of 'Roman' officers that they had to scour the universities of Greece looking for likely lads and no questions asked, or the stricture about free birth of parents for equestrian status didn't apply prior to Augustus...

- Nathan
I see the two decurions are armed in the second relief. Are they both civil figures and military?
That last thought is interesting indeed Nathan !!

I have Mouritsen on my list if i remember correctly, Mary Beard's book i do not know yet.

Also plundered Jstor for a lot of the articles i'll use, but well, it should be a paper of only 5000 words, and 360 pages literature needed for this one, which i find far too little really to find a proper debate amongst scholars and any useable proper info... however will have to make due.. do have a lot on Puteoli, Ostia, Campania, Herculaneum et cetera, and Hopkins of course, though personally i do not like his constant comparison to 17th and 18th century slavery which in my opinion is something alltogether different....

Mary Beard's 'Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town' (2009) is aimed at more of a popular than an academic readership, but if you're looking for interesting angles on the subject (together with a comprehensive overview) it might be worth a look - she writes well too, which can be refreshing after hacking through the dry pulp of many scholarly essays...

- Nathan
Quote:I see the two decurions are armed in the second relief. Are they both civil figures and military?

I thought at first they might be holding scrolls (of office?), but I think you're right. They're also wearing baggy pyjamas...

Can anyone decipher the inscription?
Quote:I see the two decurions are armed in the second relief. Are they both civil figures and military?
I've wondered about it too; and explanatory signs in museums are often unreliable. Yet, I think it is not implausible that these men are indeed civil servants. They were found halfway between Edessa and Nisibis: a very ancient region, full of cities, converted into a military zone between the Roman and Sassanian empires. So, although the explanatory can indeed have been incorrect, I'd say "in dubio pro museo".
Quote:They're also wearing baggy pyjamas...
The normal dress in those parts. The photo below is from the Diocletianic Camp in Palmyra (and serves to illustrate fourth-century art; this is just beautiful).
Quote:Can anyone decipher the inscription?
Sorry, I forgot to make a better photo. Probably two names.