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Hi. I'm a new user but have been lurking on this board since last month trying to do research for a historical novel I'm working on based on the famous legend of a Roman soldier called Pantera being the biological father of Christ. I know the legend is thought to have little historical basis but I want my version of it to be as historically accurate and plausible as it's possible for a story based on a legend to be and I hope I can get some help on that on this forum.

So here are two questions I can't seem to really find the answer to. First of all, I should say that I'm going with the identification of the legendary Pantera with Tiberius Iulius Abdes Pantera (this ties into the questions so I think it's important to add in); so Pantera is Sidonian, an archer and ends up serving for 40 years before dying at age of 62.

1. As a stylistic choice my first draft is written as a diary. I have a feeling this is a stupid question but how plausible is it that an ordinary Roman soldier like Abdes Pantera would be able to keep a diary? My feeling is "not very" but is it even remotely plausible? Are there any surviving examples of diaries from people involved with the Roman military?

2. Ties into the first question and is more important. As part of research for this I've spent a lot of time looking at pictures of Abdes Pantera's gravestone. What could the letters exs on the stone mean? I've seen them interpreted as meaning that he was eventually a standard-bearer, which would make it highly likely he was literate. Any opinions on what they could mean? I can't read Latin so I have to rely on other people's interpretations.

Anyway hope this post isn't too stupid.
The x's are just numbers.

Quote: Tib(erius) Iul(ius) Abdes Pantera
Sidonia ann(orum) LXII
stipen(diorum) XXXX miles exs(ignifer?)
coh(orte) I sagittariorum
h(ic) s(itus) e(st)



Tiberius Iulius Abdes Pantera
from Sidon, aged 62 years
served 40 years, former standard bearer(?)
of the first cohort of archers
lies here
Not [i]that[/i]; I meant the abbreviation "exs". What I was curious about was the fact not all translations of the inscription interpret "exs" as meaning "standard-bearer"; I've seen it as "decorated soldier". Are there different interpretations of the meaning of the abbreviation "exs"?
As to question 1, all I have seen are the occasional letter home, the diplomas, and some official correspondence from Vindolanda. If there were a soldier's diary everyone here would have it.
Quote:As to question 1, all I have seen are the occasional letter home, the diplomas, and some official correspondence from Vindolanda. If there were a soldier's diary everyone here would have it.
Yep. Instead of a diary, a better way to do this would be in the form of regular letters to someone back home.
The epistolary approach was used to very good effect in John Williams' novel Augustus. Well worth reading by anyone interested in the period, it's up there with Gore Vidal's Julian.
Quote:Not [i]that[/i]; I meant the abbreviation "exs". What I was curious about was the fact not all translations of the inscription interpret "exs" as meaning "standard-bearer"; I've seen it as "decorated soldier". Are there different interpretations of the meaning of the abbreviation "exs"?
The inscription is CIL XIII, 7514. EDCS renders the 'exs' as 'ex{s}', signifying that the 's' may be regarded as erroneous or superfluous. This would mean that Pantera was described simply as miles ex cohorte I sagittariorum, literally 'soldier from the first cohort of archers'. There is nothing about his image (so much of it as survives) to indicate that he was a standard bearer or that he had been decorated. It is safer to regard him as a common soldier.

There is a peculiarity about the carving of miles in that there is a gap between the 'e' and the 's'. The stone is damaged at this point but not to the extent of eradicating all signs of missing letters. CIL, quoting an earlier authority, suggests that the damage was pre-existing; the stonecutter, therefore, avoided it by placing the 'e' and 's' on either side. Thus, there is nothing to be read into this peculiarity.
Quote:The epistolary approach was used to very good effect in John Williams' novel Augustus

Also Thornton Wilder's The Ides of March Confusedmile:

Letters would be a better idea than a diary, I'd say - a diary would probably record only things of mundane interest (Marcus Aurelius's Meditations, literally 'To HImself' is written as a sort of philosophical journal, but this sort of thing would be the rare preserve of the aristocracy).

Letters, on the other hand, were intended to communicate and so would be a better vehicle for interesting stuff. Also, quite a few Roman letter collections survive. Have a look at these, written by Claudius Terentianus, an Egyptian recruit to the Misenum fleet, to his father back at home:

Terentianus letters

I think Renatus might be right about the inscription too...
That's interesting. Thanks!
Quote:
Anne Ching post=361519 Wrote:Not [i]that[/i]; I meant the abbreviation "exs". What I was curious about was the fact not all translations of the inscription interpret "exs" as meaning "standard-bearer"; I've seen it as "decorated soldier". Are there different interpretations of the meaning of the abbreviation "exs"?
The inscription is CIL XIII, 7514. EDCS renders the 'exs' as 'ex{s}', signifying that the 's' may be regarded as erroneous or superfluous. This would mean that Pantera was described simply as miles ex cohorte I sagittariorum, literally 'soldier from the first cohort of archers'. There is nothing about his image (so much of it as survives) to indicate that he was a standard bearer or that he had been decorated. It is safer to regard him as a common soldier.

There is a peculiarity about the carving of miles in that there is a gap between the 'e' and the 's'. The stone is damaged at this point but not to the extent of eradicating all signs of missing letters. CIL, quoting an earlier authority, suggests that the damage was pre-existing; the stonecutter, therefore, avoided it by placing the 'e' and 's' on either side. Thus, there is nothing to be read into this peculiarity.

That's interesting. Thanks!
And, the publishing of letters by the likes of Cicero and Pliny the Younger was popular. Familiar format.
I was going to edit my post but then I saw someone had already answered, so I'll just post the points I was going to add to my edit.
On diaries and letters; I read somewhere that even as early as Augustus' reign, people sometimes used papyrus or parchment notebooks to keep notes of events in their lives and copy the text of letters they sent and received. I think it might work better if it was done as a notebook rather than a diary; then entries/notes on events could be combined with letters.
On diaries and letters(and a mild digression on "how I could make this work"): IIRC notebooks were sometimes used to note down events and information and copy letters received or sent. If Pantera was a slave as one theory guesses, especially if he was a favoured slave, I don't think it's implausible he could've been given an expensive notebook as a gift.
Quote:If Pantera was a slave as one theory guesses
There is no reason at all to suppose that Pantera had been a slave. It was a capital offence for a slave to enlist in the army and there seem also to have been restrictions on freedmen enlisting. In times of dire emergency, slaves could be enlisted but they were normally freed first. This was extremely rare, however, and again there is no reason to suppose that this applied in Pantera's case.

He could have obtained his Roman names in a variety of ways. Roman names were given to non-Romans on enlistment and these might be used in addition to or in substitution for their native names. If Pantera's names imply Roman citizenship, this could have been granted on his discharge or, if he were still in the army at the time of his death (as the image on his tombstone may imply), when he had completed 25 years service or, if his father had also been a soldier, on his father's discharge when he and his children would have been enfranchised. The tombstone seems to be early and the rules on discharge and the grant of citizenship were not, I believe, firmly established at that time.
Renatus, good point. I think the "slave" theory could result from the idea that Pantera was originally a "temple slave" (dedicated to Astarte or Isis? ) in Phoenicia; I've come across the idea that his Phoenician name "Abdes" means "servant of Isis" but this could mean nothing. I've also read that at least sometimes temple slaves weren't actually slaves but serfs working on temple estates and as servants to priests and other officials.

BTW thanks everyone who replied to this thread. I really appreciate your help, lots to think about.
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