Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Chapter One: Lepcis Magna and the Gens Septimia

Peace, one and all...
Unusually, I had 5 minutes to spare today and so I thought I'd post Chapter One. Enjoy!
Chapter One: Lepcis Magna and the Gens Septimia
Ancient writers perceived a deep connection between Septimius and Africa. Herodian calls him a ‘Libyan’ (2.9.2-3), whilst later writers, such as Victor and the author of the Historia Augusta, all make him a native of Lepcis[1]. John Malalas, in his sixth century chronicle, interestingly describes the emperor as a man of medium height, with ‘dark skin’ (12.19). Although this is almost certainly wrong, it shows the continuing strength of the connection, some three hundred years after his death[2].

In this chapter, we shall examine this association for ourselves by attempting to assess where exactly the emperor’s roots lay. Before however, we can look at the origins of the gens Septimia, we need to place our discussion in its proper context by tracing briefly the history of their native city and its relationship with Rome.

Septimius seems to have been born in 145CE, at Lepcis Magna, then the largest city of Tripolitania
[3]. Geographically, the ruins of Lepcis lie along the Syrtic coast of Libya, at the mouth of the Wadi Lebdah, toward the eastern end of the Gefara plain. The city seems to have been founded during the mid-seventh century BCE by Phoenician settlers, whilst its near neighbours, Sabratha and Oea, were probably established a little later, during the sixth and fifth centuries respectively[4]. However, the original names of all three cities are Libyan in form rather than Punic, which suggests the possibility of some kind of older native settlement[5]. Despite this, the earliest archaeologically attested settlement at Lepcis seems to have been under the later Forum Vetus, although later on a new site was established on an island in the harbour (called Neapolis)[6].

Notwithstanding its adequate harbour facilities, it was the city’s agricultural and economic potential that quickly established it as the region’s premier urban centre. This potential was based upon a fortunate combination of climatic and geographic factors, which meant that the city’s territory covered some of Tripolitania’s most fertile and well-weathered land
[7]. As such, it attracted the glowing praise of Herodotus, who remarked that the nearby River Cinyps (the modern Wadi el-Caam valley) was:
‘…equal to any country in the world for cereal crops and is nothing like the rest of Libya. The soil here is black and springs of water abound so that there is no fear of drought and heavy rains – for it rains in that part of Libya – do no harm when they soak the ground. The returns of the harvest come up to the Babylonian measures…the Cinyps region yields three hundred fold’ (Herodotus, 4.198).
With the aid of artificial irrigation techniques, Lepcis could both feed itself and generate a reasonable grain surplus. It also seems to have had a good source of timber in the nearby Gebel Msellata region[8]. In addition, the city was the focus of an ancient trans-Saharan trade route, which made it a small, yet important, market for gold, slaves and exotic animals from West Africa[9]. However, the city’s most important asset was the olive. The olive tree, which can survive in arid areas with little attention, was ideally suited to local conditions. In a good year the city could produce vast quantities of oil for domestic use and export, which created substantial revenue[10]. It is not, therefore, surprising that Lepcis’ Carthaginian over-lords were able to extract one talent per day in tribute, whilst Caesar could later impose the enormous fine of three million pounds of olive oil per year[11].

Given this wealth, the city was an attractive target. Competition for control of the region’s resources was fierce. Indeed, from its very beginnings, Lepcis had to use its wits to survive. Not only did it have to contend with its ambitious neighbours and local tribes, it also had to defend itself from outside attack. During the late sixth century, a Spartan adventurer named Doreius founded a strong rival base at the mouth of the Wadi el-Caam. It took an uneasy alliance of Carthaginians, Macae and other Libyans to dislodge Doreius from his camp

When Lepcis next appears in the historical record, it was again fighting off the unwanted attentions of outsiders. The Roman destruction of Carthaginian supremacy, during the third and second centuries, created a regional power vacuum into which stepped the Roman-appointee Massinissa. This powerful and dynamic Numidian king repeatedly attempted to wrest control of the emporium from its former masters and by the 160s BCE had finally succeeded in establishing some kind of suzerainty
[13]. Despite his victory however, Lepcis seems to have enjoyed a large measure of autonomy; soon afterwards it began to mint its own coinage[14]. This semi-independence was possibly the result of a growing Roman interest in Africa, which sought to exploit the county’s considerable natural resources. In any case, the half-century following the final destruction of Carthage in 149BCE saw a government-inspired expansion of Italian business interests throughout the province. It also saw the arrival of large numbers of Italian settlers, principally retired veterans, who were granted wide lands in the conquered territories and formed into a number of coloniae, most notably at Carthage and Utica[15].

Lepcis responded to the outbreak of the Jugurthine war in 112BCE by seeking a direct alliance with Rome. The city’s ruling clique sought help against one Hamilcar, a renegade Lepcitane and ally of Jugurtha, who had made several attempts to wrest control from them
[16]. The emporium’s strategic importance, as well as a hefty bribe, ensured Roman support; Lepcis became an allied state and Roman troops arrived, suppressing the revolt. In return, the city was obliged to make ‘donations’ to the private funds of three successive consuls[17].

The city’s active participation in Roman politics led to it becoming embroiled in the disastrous civil war of the mid-first century. Shortly before the war, Lepcis was involved in a border dispute with Juba I of Numidia. Significantly, a senatorial commission found in Lepcis’ favour. Possibly influenced by this turn of events, Juba sided with Pompey and used the ensuing conflict to seize control of the emporium, with the aid of a pro-Numidian party within the city itself. The Republican victory over Curio at Utica confirmed Juba in his control, which led to the execution of a number of Caesarian sympathisers. The tide turned against Juba however, with the death of Pompey in Egypt in 48BCE. Despite regrouping under Cato at Lepcis, Republican forces in Africa were overwhelmed by Caesar two years later
[18]. Consequently, the city was fined an enormous three million pounds of olive oil per year[19].

Despite this apparent setback, the region recovered rapidly under Augustus. Regardless of some early campaigning in the Fezzan, Tripolitania was peacefully absorbed into the newly formed province of Africa Proconsularis
[20]. Lepcis’ evident wealth and ambition made it one of the area’s principal cities. As such, its leading citizens began to adopt Roman customs and architectural fashions. Thus in 8BCE, one Annobal Tapapius Rufus, whose name shows an accurate understanding of Roman nomenclature, built a large new tholos-style market along the Via Trionfale, in apparent imitation of the capital’s new macellum. A few years later, under the proconsul Cn. Calpurnius Piso, a new Roman-style Forum was laid out[21]. A large new Theatre in the city’s western district, paid for by Annobal, followed this in 2CE[22].

Ten years later, his compatriot Iddibal built a temple to Venus and the spirit of Augustus (the Chalcidicum), as well as paying for a college of fifteen attendant priests
[23]. This was the first such temple in an allied treaty-state and, interestingly, its dedication recalls Venus Genetrix, the patron deity of the Julian house[24]. During the last two years of Augustus’ life, Annobal made yet another public donation, erecting a Temple to Rome and Augustus on the Northwest side of the Forum[25]. Two other major forum temples may well have been constructed at around this time, one dedicated to Liber Pater and the other to an as yet unknown deity[26]. Work also began on the Carthage to Alexandria highway, with sizeable sections being laid out at nearby Oea and Tacape[27].

The civic donations of the Tapapii have their counterparts in other cities of the empire. At Pompeii, for example, the early Augustan period saw a very similar re-modelling. Like their Lepcitane contemporaries, leading Pompeian families cemented their social position by financing the construction of public buildings and amenities, as well as refurbishing existing ones. Thus M. Holconius Celer and M. Holconius Rufus (who seems to have been a younger brother) paid for a major renovation of Pompeii’s theatre, for which Rufus was called ‘benefactor of colony’
[28]. Rufus also paid for restoration work on the temple of Apollo[29] and interestingly, Eumachia, a female member of another notable family, paid for the construction of an expensive Chalcidicum[30].

During Tiberius’ reign, Tripolitania’s apparent tranquillity was broken by the revolt of Tacfarinas, a former Roman auxiliary soldier. The dispute, which seems to have been caused by interference with traditional migration routes, lasted for seven years before being brought under control and involved the transfer of an entire legion from the Danube frontier
[31]. Tacitus notes the interest that Tacfarinas’ exotic looking Garamantian allies caused at Rome when they brought news of their unconditional surrender[32]. Lepcis probably served as the campaign headquarters. P. Cornelius Dolabella, the victorious general, placed a dedication to Victoria Augusta inside the city’s Forum[33].

Under Claudius and Nero, the city’s public amenities were further expanded. In 45-46CE a large statue-group was dedicated to Claudius and placed in the Forum
[34]. Shortly afterwards, the Forum itself was refurbished. The floor was completely re-paved in white limestone and a colonnaded portico added in the Northwest corner. This expensive restoration was important enough to be dedicated by the then proconsul, Pompeius Silvanus. The work was paid for by G’y ben Hanno in honour of his grandson G’y. His adoptive grandson Ba’alyaton Qmd’ ben M’qr supervised the project[35]. The grateful city responded by erecting a statue of G’y nearby[36]. Under Nero, a new amphitheatre was added and the city’s vital harbour underwent major renovation work[37]. Part of the new harbour complex was a large new portico, dedicated in 62CE by the proconsul Orfitus and his legate Silius Celer and financed by Ithymbal Sabinus Tapapius, the ‘curator of public money’[38].

The conflict caused by Nero’s suicide allowed a territorial dispute between Lepcis and neighbouring Oea to escalate into open war. Oea, taking full advantage of Rome’s distraction, allied itself with the Garamantes and attacked Lepcis. After Vespasian’s victory at Cremona, Valerius Festus led a punitive expedition against the tribesmen and quickly restored order
[39]. Rutilius Gallicus was sent to calm the situation further, as a specially appointed provincial governor. Vespasian rewarded Lepcis’ loyalty in 78CE, granting it the ius Latii (‘or Latin right’)[40]. This meant that all city officials automatically received Roman citizenship. Unusually however, although the municipal priests (the mahazim) were called by their Latin equivalents (aediles), its chief magistrates, the sufetes, remained distinctly African[41]. As such, the number of Roman citizens dramatically increased. In response to this largesse, a new temple to Cybele/Magna Mater was placed inside the Forum; Vespasian was honoured by the erection of a triumphal arch at Lepcis, near the later Byzantine Gate[42]. The city also paid for a pair of honorary statues of the proconsul and his wife to be erected in their home city of Turin[43].

Lepcitanes during the late first and early second centuries were affluent and upwardly mobile. Thus under Domitian, one Septimius became part of the literary circle of Statius, an influential court poet
[44]. The city was sufficiently well connected to successfully convict a wealthy ex-proconsul of Africa, Marius Priscus, of extortion and murder. The trial came to court in 100CE and was deemed important enough for Trajan himself to attend. Lepcis hired the services of several senior advocates, including Tacitus, the Younger Pliny and Ti Julius Ferox (cos.99)[45]. Although the lost revenue was never returned, Trajan may well have felt that the city had been harshly treated. This may explain why Lepcis’ first senator, ’ …]o Front[o]ni’, is recorded soon afterwards[46]. In any case, during 109-110CE, Trajan granted Lepcis the singular honour of becoming a Roman colony. It now became a fully Roman urban settlement, with the sufetes being transformed into duumviri. Septimius’ eponymous grandfather served as its first duumvir. The city was exempted from tribute and perhaps most significantly, all freeborn Lepcitanes became Roman citizens[47]. In gratitude, the people of Lepcis dedicated a large quadrifons arch to Trajan, close to the Market and Chalcidicum[48].

The city’s growth continued under Hadrian with the construction in 119-120CE of an aqueduct, which brought water into the city from the Wadi el-Caam. Q. Servius Candidus, a member of a local family probably enfranchised under Claudius, paid for the work
[49]. In 137CE an immense new public baths was inaugurated. Placed cleverly on alluvial soil reclaimed from the Wadi Lebdah, the Baths were monumental in scale and modelled on the imperial baths at Rome, though with significant variations[50]. By the time of Antoninus Pius, Lepcis had become one of Africa’s chief cities. Many of the city’s public monuments were re-faced with marble. Ti. Plautius Lupus, a duumvir from an eminent senatorial family, seems to have paid for much of the work, whilst his contemporary Rusonianus restored the Theatre (now over a hundred years old)[51]. One inscription of particular interest records the dedication of a statue of Cupid to the emperor by C. Claudius Septimius [A]fer[52]. This man seems to have been the father of Lepcis’ first consuls, P. Septimius Aper (cos.153) and C. Septimius Severus (cos.160), and is presumably related to the future emperor. Septimius’ own father, P. Septimius Geta, who may well have served as an aedile, set up a statue to Septimia Polla his sister at about this time which was, according to Duncan-Jones, ‘the most…expensive in Africa’[53].

By the mid-second century, Lepcis had become one of Africa’s leading cities. In the course of little over a century, the emporium went from an allied, though still ‘foreign’, city to a municipium and thence to a fully-fledged Roman colony. An examination of the spread of Roman citizenship and the Latin tongue demonstrates Lepcis’ desire for upward mobility still further.

The first thing to note about Lepcis during the first century was its conspicuous lack of immigrants. In marked contrast to the rest of Africa, the city did not see the official establishment of a large Italian community in its midst
[54]. Thus although individual Italians did settle at Lepcis, like the banker T. Herennius during the early first century BCE, there was no mass influx of settlers[55]. Consequently, immigrant families make up a surprisingly small percentage of Lepcis’ known nobility. Of particular importance are the Fulvii Lepcitani, who are first attested under Augustus, and who are seemingly connected to Septimius through Fulvia Pia, his mother[56]. Other examples include the Perperna Lepcitanus, recorded on an inscription dedicated to Tiberius, and the family of Carminius Saturninus, who set up an inscription in the city’s main street[57]. The complete lack of any organised body of resident Roman citizens, such as a conventus civium Romanorum or a pagus also demonstrates the absence of a large Italian community[58]. There is no record of there ever having been any such organisation at Lepcis. These corporations are found throughout North Africa and because of their high status, they exerted a disproportionate influence on their respective cities[59]. That Lepcis did not have such a corporation suggests that the native aristocracy retained their importance under Roman rule[60].

During the early principate, grants of citizenship were extremely rare. Thus although we find eleven Julii in the city’s epigraphic record, without further corroborative evidence, it is extremely unlikely that any of them were enfranchised under the early Julio-Claudian period
[61]. There are also a large number of names suggesting connections with early proconsuls. Some thirty-eight names recall Augustan officials and some forty-two suggest Tiberian magistrates[62]. Whilst it seems likely that few of these actually reflect such early enfranchisement, there are some possible exceptions. Thus an ancestor of the L. Aelius Ae[…, recorded on an inscription from Lepcis, could possibly have been granted citizenship under the early Tiberian proconsul, L. Aelius Lamia[63].

Under Claudius and Nero, there seems to have been a small extension in the numbers of Roman citizens. It is from this period that the first solid dating evidence emerges. From this time onwards, inscriptions with proper Roman nomenclature, including filiation and details of voting tribes begin to appear. From an analysis of this data it can be seen that all new citizens enrolled at Lepcis before the grant of colonial status in 109-110CE, were placed in the Quirina tribe, whilst those enfranchised afterwards appear in the Papiria tribe

The surviving epigraphic record includes thirteen examples of Claudii at Lepcis
[65]. It is virtually certain that the families of two of them were enfranchised during this time. Ti. Claudius Sestius, a sufes and priest of Vespasian, dedicated a podium to Domitian in the Theatre at Lepcis. The inscription dates to 91-92CE and his tribe is given as the Quirina; his nomenclature suggests that an ancestor, probably his father, was given citizenship under Claudius or Nero[66]. The neo-Punic text is a direct translation of the Latin[67]. Another set of inscriptions from the city market records one Ti Claudius Amicus, a first century aedile[68]. Other evidence is less precise. There are nineteen names recalling either Claudian or Neronian officials[69]. A number of names recall the cognomina of the short-lived emperors Galba, Otho and Vitellius. However, it is worth noting that these men, or their relatives, all served as proconsuls of Africa under Claudius or Nero[70]. Q. Servius Candidus, who dedicated a large statue group to Claudius in the Forum Vetus, also seems to have been enfranchised at this time[71]. One especially interesting inscription records the dedication of a statue of Cupid to Hadrian by C. Claudius Septimius [A]fer[72]. It is possible that this man was a relative of Septimius[73]. In any case, his nomenclature strongly suggests that he, or another member of his family, was given the franchise during this period.

Despite this gradual expansion of Roman citizenship, it is significant that even at this time the epigraphic corpus demonstrates the importance of the indigenous non-citizen elite. As we saw above, in 45-46CE Lepcis’ Theatre was completely refurbished and a large statue-group was dedicated to Claudius inside the Forum Vetus. Various members of G’y ben Hanno’s family paid for this work
[74]. They are clearly still of peregrine status and were obviously wealthy and socially influential.

The first major expansion of citizenship at Lepcis came with Vespasian’s grant of municipal status in 78CE. As a result, the city’s four annual magistrates (aediles and sufetes) received automatic citizenship. The appearance of these offices on inscriptions of the Flavian period may therefore be taken as an accurate indicator of citizen status. The Punic word sufes (‘judge’) appears thirteen times in the local epigraphic record. Of these, six seem to date to this period
[75]. By contrast, there are only four aediles recorded at Lepcis, three of which fit these criteria[76]. Perhaps not surprisingly, Flavii form the largest single group of imperial cognomina at Lepcis, with forty examples. Of these, however, only five can be more securely dated[77]. Caution is required however, because Vespasian himself served as proconsul under Nero, whilst his successor was L. Tampius Flavianus[78]. It is also worth remembering that the name Flavius was very popular during the later empire. Birley records the names of twenty-two individuals that seem to recall Flavian officials at Lepcis, though ten of these are extremely dubious[79].

When the city became a colony under Trajan all freeborn Lepcitanes automatically became citizens. Surprisingly however, only six Ulpii survive in the epigraphic record (three of which share the emperor’s praenomen)
[80]. Presumably those new citizens who did not adopt the imperial cognomen took the name of the then proconsul, Q. Pomponius Rufus[81]. The presence of Aelii and Aurelii at Lepcis therefore probably reflects the activity of proconsuls from an earlier period, rather than direct imperial grants, such as the very early L. Aelius Lamia, or an otherwise unknown Aurelius[82].

The linguistic history of Lepcis reveals a number of complex phenomena at work. Firstly, although Punic survives as the city’s native tongue, Latin seems to have swiftly established a position of dominance in the public world of the Forum
[83]. Thus the last extended inscriptions written in neo-Punic script date to the reign of Domitian (or in other words just after the city had become a municipium)[84]. Secondly, despite Latin’s apparent dominance, its penetration at, and beyond, Lepcis is rather difficult to measure. Although Latin was certainly a prerequisite for those seeking social advancement, it is unclear to what extent those at the other end of the spectrum used Latin. Although we know little about ordinary people, the Latinity of Tripolitania appears to be somewhat distinctive[85]. Ostraca from Bu Njem reveal a number of peculiar expressions, as well as abnormal syntax and bizarre grammar[86]. Two long, supposedly hexameter poems from Bu Njem also reveal similar features. One, by a centurion named M. Porcius Iasucthan, contains so many errors that it has been described by Adams as ‘…one of the most incompetent hexameter poems ever written…’[87]. The other, by Q. Avidius Quintianus, though generally much better, also makes frequent mistakes[88]. Such grammatical problems, coupled with reasonably accurate spelling and inflection, suggest that Latin was to some extent an acquired language for both men, as does Iasucthan’s failure to properly distinguish vowel lengths[89]. This suggests that whilst Latin quickly became the primary language of refined culture and public business, native tongues, whether Libyan or Punic, remained the first language for most of the region’s inhabitants, especially in Lepcis’ pre-desert hinterland. This is further borne out by the survival of Punic loan words in modern Libya’s colloquial Arabic[90].

Given this complexity, it is legitimate to ask to what extent Septimius himself understood Punic. As an educated member of the nobility, he must certainly have been fluent in Latin, and possibly in Greek too
[91]. Some degree of fluency is strongly suggested by the continuing strength of Punic. One source, albeit rather late, states, quite unequivocally, that he was a fluent Punic speaker[92]. The Historia Augusta’s remarks that Septimius’ sister could barely speak Latin are, however, of arguably greater significance[93]. Although caution is required, the basic thrust of the story, that a female member of the Lepcitane elite had noticeably poorer Latin than her brother, seems fairly accurate. It may also mean that her Latin was distinctive, rather than just poor, which would seem to fit the pattern outlined above. This may well be the essence of another stray remark in the vita, that Septimius retained an African accent throughout his life[94].

Although the evidence for the origins of the gens Septimia is sometimes difficult to interpret, it is certainly not a hopeless task (see the stemma on page viii). Our evidence, largely in the form of ancient literature and inscriptions, though sometimes equivocal and occasionally patchy, is sufficiently full to allow a plausible reconstruction. Indeed, as we shall see, it is possible to untangle the complicated network of relationships and ultimately, to argue that on the balance of probabilities Septimius’ family did originate at Lepcis.

Our investigation begins with one Macer, said by the Historia Augusta to be Septimius’ paternal grandfather (avus paternus)
[95]. An inscription from Lepcis has shown this to be inaccurate[96]. Macer, a fairly common Latin name meaning ‘lean’, is found throughout Tripolitania[97]. Interestingly enough, inscriptions from Lepcis record the donations of one Anno Macer and his family during the mid-first century CE[98]. The last of them records the dedication of a statue to his son, Gaius Phelyssam, in 54CE[99].

In light of this, Birley suggests that Macer was Septimius’ great-grandfather, citing a possible corruption of the Historia Augusta in support
[100]. He then goes on to suggest that Macer, active during the Flavian period, may well have received his citizen status under one Septimius Flaccus, a legate of III Augusta out-stationed at Lepcis, thus giving him the name of Septimius Macer[101]. Whilst this interpretation is certainly attractive, it is based on somewhat tenuous evidence. In the first place, Macer’s identification as Septimius’ great-grandfather is far from certain. Secondly, the existence of a fault in the text of the vita is not universally accepted[102]. Thirdly, Septimius Flaccus is an extremely shadowy figure. Only Ptolemy definitely records his presence at Lepcis, though other references, including two inscriptions, refer to a Flavian legate by the name of Suellius Flaccus, who may or may not be the same man[103]. Interestingly however, a L. Septimius Flaccus (cos. suff. 183) served as a proconsul of Pannonia Inferior early in Commodus’ reign[104]. Despite these uncertainties, it is quite plausible that the Historia Augusta has recorded the name correctly, merely erring with regards to the exact relationship. In other words, it is possible that Macer was another, more distant relative, although in the absence of fresh evidence we cannot advance much beyond this.

With Septimius’ grandfather, we move onto more solid ground. Indeed, as will become clear, the current debate centres on him. Before advancing any further therefore, it is worth setting out the evidence as it stands. An inscription, set up in 203, gives this man’s name as Lucius Septimius Severus and supplies us with details of his public career
[105]. He held the post of sufes, Lepcis’ chief native magistracy, was praefectus when the city became a colony and immediately afterwards he became its first duumvir. He served as a priest of the imperial cult at some point and was also a juryman at Rome itself (iudex inter selectos). It is also possible that he is the ‘…]s M(arci) f(ilius) Quir(ina tribu) Seve[rus f]lame[n] divi Clau[di]’ referred to in an inscription in the early part of Trajan’s reign[106]. In any case, he was clearly an important man: he was undoubtedly of equestrian status, had served in his city’s chief magistracies and had evidently spent time at Rome[107]. As such, he appears to have been commemorated by the late first century Roman poet Statius[108].

In 94-95CE, Statius published Book Four of his Silvae and dedicated it to his influential patron Vitorius Marcellus. The fifth poem of this book, a rather unusual alcaic ode, is addressed to Septimius Severus, a young equestrian and Latin poet from Lepcis, now living in Italy
[109]. The poem, the text of which is set out in Appendix Two, clearly shows that Statius’ friend was brought to the capital as a child. Lines 34 to 36 describe the young Septimius entering ‘…the havens of Ausonia’, thereby subtly comparing him to Aeneas, who was likewise an ‘…adopted child, on Tuscan waters’. Line 33 depicts him crawling ‘…as an infant on all the hills of Rome’[110]. The poem also suggests that Septimius was educated at the capital, although if not actually physically located there then at least with the hallmarks of classical Roman education. In lines 35 to 36 Statius invokes the legendary waters of the fonte Iuturnae and likens them to a mother’s milk: ‘Who would not say that he had drunk, his weaning done, of Juturna’s fountain?’[111]. In Line 45, Statius sums up Septimius’ Romanitas: ‘Neither your speech nor your dress is Punic, yours is no stranger’s mind: Italian, you are, Italian!’ (‘Non sermo Poenus, non habitus tibi, externa non mens: Italus, Italus’)[112]. The use of three repeated negatives (‘non…non…non’) forcefully emphasises Statius’ point that Septimius really is ‘one of us’[113]. This probably explains why, in the preface to this poem, Statius goes so far as to name Veii, instead of Lepcis, as Septimius’ origo[114].

Despite this however, there must have been something perceptibly ‘foreign’ about Septimius. The poem makes little real sense otherwise. Statius himself hints at this. Septimius is referred to as an ‘Indian Harvest’ and as the ‘rare cinnamon’ of the Sabaeans
[115]. His flattery is designed to show that Septimius is fully ‘Roman’ in his manners and lifestyle and so consequently, bears no trace of the stereotypical ‘faithless African’. Hannibal came to typify this stereotype and was often evoked in late first century literature as an image of savagery; Statius himself makes frequent use of this motif in his poems[116]. Septimius, as a budding Latin poet in his own right, also had another reason for wishing to emphasise his Romanitas. Domitian, an emperor with literary pretensions of his own, actively prevented Africans from winning poetry competitions[117]. What then, links this Septimius with the emperor’s grandfather?

A close examination of the evidence demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that the Septimius of Statius’ poem was the same man as the emperor’s grandfather. To start with, both men were born at Lepcis and were active during the late first and early second centuries
[118]. Secondly, both were wealthy. Statius’ friend must have had at least moderate wealth to move in Statius’ literary circle, whilst the emperor’s grandfather, as one of Lepcis’ leading citizens, must have been immensely wealthy. Thirdly, both men held land at Veii. Statius gives his friend’s origo as Veii[119]. The Historia Augusta states that in 191CE, just before he became the governor of Pannonia, the future emperor purchased ‘elaborate gardens’ at Rome, where before his only property in Italy had been ‘an unpretentious dwelling in the city and unum fundum in …iam’ (HA Sev. 4.5)[120]. Although this corrupt portion of the text has often been restored as ‘a single farm in Venetia’ (‘unum fundum in Venetia’), Hammond convincingly argues that the text should be emended to read ‘unum fundum Veientanum (vel Veientem)’ (‘a single farm at Veii’)[121]. In other words, the future emperor received this farm by inheritance from his grandfather. This is supported by the discovery of a nearby lead pipe, with the name ‘P. Septimius Geta’ inscribed upon it[122].

Also, both men were of equestrian status. Statius’ friend was clearly an eques, whilst the emperor’s grandfather served in the equestrian legal post of iudex selectus at Rome
[123]. Furthermore, both were active in the courts. Statius praises his friend’s legal eloquence: ‘Pleasing too is your voice in the strident courts, but your eloquence is never venal’ (Silvae 4.5.49-52). Of greater significance are the names of Lucius’ children, which both evoke Statius’ literary circle. Thus P. Septimius Geta, the emperor’s father, recalls Vitorius Marcellus Geta, the dedicatee of Silvae Book Four[124]. It is interesting to note that this is the first attested example of the name at Lepcis, although it was later used as a derivative of the popular African name Gaetulus/Gaetulicus[125]. Similarly Septimia Polla, the emperor’s aunt, recalls Argentaria Polla, Lucan’s famous widow and a member of Roman high society[126].

As such, we can build up a fairly accurate picture of the emperor’s grandfather. Lucius Septimius Severus was born to a wealthy Lepcitane family during the later first century CE (most probably in the late 60s to early 70s), of probable equestrian status, possibly to the mysterious Septimius Macer. He was taken to Italy (Veii to be exact) as a child, where he was presumably educated. As a young man, like others of his class, he turned his hand to poetry (none of which survives) before embarking upon the more serious business of a career, probably becoming a iudex shortly before Domitian’s assassination in 96-97CE. Returning to Lepcis after Domitian’s death, Lucius became a leading member of the local elite, holding the posts of sufes and praefectus before finally becoming its first duumvir in 109-110CE. Despite his African origin, Lucius remained completely romanised, giving his children names recalling powerful members of his former literary circle. It is clear, then, that he was an important figure in his grandson’s early life.

Although Septimius’ father, P. Septimius Geta, was of some interest to ancient writers, he seems to have been a less prominent figure than his father
[127]. Thus, very little is known about him beyond his name and the fact that he was the emperor’s father[128]. As no details survive, it is therefore impossible to go beyond mere guesswork in assessing his career. Although he was certainly not a senator (his relatives, Septimius and Aper, were the first Septimii to hold that distinction), it is possible that he was the aedile ‘[…]s Geta’ recorded on an inscription found inside the Theatre at Lepcis[129]. Despite this, he was clearly a man of considerable wealth. The inscription he set up in honour of his sister, Septimia Polla, was, according to Duncan-Jones, ‘the most expensive…in Africa’[130]. His marriage to Fulvia Pia, of the Fulvii Lepcitani, also illustrates his social and financial importance at Lepcis[131].

As we saw above, the emperor’s sister, Septimia Octavilla, is an important figure in our search for the origins of the gens Septimia. Some time after 198, she was honoured posthumously by three of Lepcis’ curial wards as ‘a woman of most noble memory’ (‘c(larissimae) m(emoriae) f(emina)’)
[132]. In other words, it seems that she was married to a senator. More significantly for our particular study, however, is an oft-quoted incident in the Historia Augusta. In the midst of a passage dealing with the events of 198, the author remarks that during Septimius’ time as emperor:
‘His sister from Leptis once came to see him, and, since she could barely speak Latin, made the emperor blush for her hotly. And so, after giving the broad stripe to her son and many presents to the woman herself, he sent her home again, and also her son, who died a short time afterwards’ (HA Sev.15.7)[133].
It is possible that Septimia’s son, who remains unnamed by the Historia Augusta, is the equestrian L. Flavius Septimius Aper Octavianus recorded on an inscription at Rome[134].

As we saw above, Lepcis’ first two native consuls were both relatives of the emperor. The Historia Augusta gives their names as Aper and Severus and describes them as great-uncles (patrui magni) of the emperor
[135]. Aper, or P. Septimius Aper, was suffect consul in 153, whilst Severus, or C. Septimius Severus, held the office seven years later in 160 and in 174 became the proconsul of Africa, with the future emperor serving as his legate[136]. As such, Severus is recorded on a number of inscriptions throughout Africa. One from Thuburiscu Numidarum records him as the city’s patron and gives us details of his career[137]. Another inscription, from the arch of Marcus Aurelius at Lepcis, was dedicated in 174, ‘when the proconsul was C. Septimius Severus, and his legate was L. Septimius Severus’[138].

Barnes argues that Severus is also the subject of an inscription from Praeneste, which records a [C.] Sept. C.f. Severus of the Papinia tribe
[139]. At first glance, this idea seems attractive; this Severus is also a ‘Caius filius’, whilst Praeneste is very close to the Italian estates of the Septimii at Veii. Of particular importance is this man’s tribe, the Papinia. This voting tribe was almost exclusively restricted to Italy. Consequently, Barnes concludes that the Septimii were, therefore, originally Italian settlers[140].

Barnes’ hypothesis stands and falls upon the link between this Severus and the consul for 160. Thus, if the link is weakened, then so is his conclusion. As it happens, an inscription from Mauretania Tingitana directly challenges this connection. This inscription, known as the Tabula Banasitana, records the grant of citizenship in 177 to Julianus, a Mauritanian tribal leader
[141]. Appended to the main text of the document is an archival copy of the senatorial debate, which includes the names of those present[142]. C. Septimius Severus, as a senior ex-consul, attended; interestingly, his name is given as ‘Caii Filius Qui(rina tribu)’ (‘the son of Caius, of the Quirina tribe’)[143]. This significant piece of evidence reveals a number of things. Firstly, it shows that he cannot have been the man referred to in the Praeneste inscription; although the praenomen is the same, the tribe is not. As was seen above, those Lepcitanes who were enfranchised at Lepcis before Trajan’s grant of colonial status in 109-110 were automatically enrolled in the Quirina tribe[144]. Therefore the highest-ranking member of the gens Septimia belonged to a voting tribe widespread amongst the pre-colonial elite. In other words, the emperor’s family was almost certainly enfranchised at Lepcis before Trajan’s time, possibly during the Flavian period.

It also means that Severus cannot be the emperor’s great-uncle, for which he would need to be a son of Lucius the sufes. An inscription from Lepcis supplies a very plausible candidate for this Severus’ father. During the reign of Antoninus Pius, one C. Cl(audius) Septimius [A]fer set up a statue to honour the emperor in the Chalcidicum
[145]. Although he is otherwise unknown, his nomenclature suggests a possible link (he is a Caius and Severus is a Caius filius). His name also suggests a relationship with P. Septimius Aper, Lepcis’ first native consul, Aper being merely a variant spelling of Afer[146]. If true, this would put him in the same generation as the emperor’s grandfather Lucius, to which no serious objection arises[147]. The additional name of Claudius is easily explained as deriving from a marriage link with a family of Claudii, of which there are two notable native examples at Lepcis[148].

There is also a distinct possibility that Septimius was a distant relative of the powerful second century orator, M. Cornelius Fronto. In a letter to one Petronius Mamertinus, Fronto recommends a young man who is said to be ‘among the devotees of our familia’ (Ad Am. 1.10.2). Although familia can mean ‘household’, Champlin argues that Fronto is here referring to an actual blood relationship
[149]. If this connection is accurate, it shows a clear link to the powerful senator M Petronius Mamertinus (cos. 150)[150]. Of particular interest, however, is the nomenclature of this man’s son, M. Petronius Sura Septimianus, which seems to recall a marriage link with an otherwise unattested Septimia[151]. Further corroborative evidence can be found in Septimius' appointment of Fronto’s two grandsons, M. Aufidius Fronto and C. Aufidius Victorinus, to ordinary consulships[152]. That they served in consecutive years (199 and 200 respectively) seems particularly suggestive of a family connection[153]. It is possible, therefore, that the ‘…]o Front[o]ni’, recorded as the city’s first senator under Trajan, is also distantly related[154].

Turning briefly to the less prominent members of the gens Septimia, we can see further links with Lepcis and Africa in general. Thus Paccia Marciana, Septimius’ first wife, was a member of one of Lepcis’ leading families
[155]. The Historia Augusta states that Septimius had two daughters by this marriage, who were married to Probus and Aetius in 193[156]. This is highly unlikely. There is no record, in any other source, of the existence of these young women, which seems strange, given their likely status.

Fulvia Pia, the emperor’s mother, is only attested in two extant inscriptions, both set up by Septimius himself
[157]. Her family, the Fulvii Lepcitani, were originally Italian immigrants and are first attested at Lepcis under Augustus[158]. As epigraphic evidence reveals, the family soon married into the local elite, most notably with the native Plautii (from whom sprang C. Fulvius Plautianus, Septimius’ close friend and praetorian prefect)[159]. Although not absolutely certain, it is likely that the emperor’s brother, also a P. Septimius Geta, was his father’s eldest son. Not only did he inherit his father’s full name, he also seems to have begun his career before his brother’s[160]. Of the remaining Septimii, L. Septimius Aper (cos. ord. in 207) was particularly connected with business, it seems to be his name stamped upon olive oil amphorae found at Rome[161]. It seems probable however, that this man’s name was actually C. Septimius Severus Aper. An as yet unpublished military diploma calls the consul ordinarius for 207 by this name[162]. If accurate, this would make him a son or grandson of C. Septimius Severus (cos. 160).

It seems particularly appropriate to end our discussion with L. Septimius Aper for a number of reasons. Firstly, his apparent involvement with Lepcis’ lucrative olive oil trade reminds us the city’s expansion was based squarely upon its mercantile strength. As we have seen, it was the city’s rich trading networks that brought it to international prominence, and hence eventually into the orbit of Rome. Secondly, Lucius’ family, the gens Septimia, stood at the forefront of the city’s drive for social mobility during the late first and second centuries. As was argued above, they represent the most successful of many such native families at Lepcis, and indeed throughout Africa as a whole. The emperor’s family were most probably enfranchised during the Flavian period, whilst his grandfather was the city’s first duumvir and his two second cousins were the first Lepcitanes to reach the consulship. As such, we can see that the emperor’s roots lay firmly at Lepcis, although his connections spread far beyond the city of his birth. In Chapter Two, we shall build further upon the conclusions reached in this chapter by focusing on Septimius’ career as an aspiring senator.

[1] Victor De Caes. 20.19; HA Sev. 1.2; Eutropius Brev. 8.18; Ausonius Opus 14.21.3-4.
[2] Malalas’ usefulness for the Severan era is limited. He is at the mercy of faulty sources and is himself often guilty of basic errors. In any case, Dio (77.16.1) contradicts Malalas’ physical description of Septimius. See Jeffreys (1990), 167-216; Croke (1990), pp.1-26. In the Berlin tondo, a small colour cameo, the emperor is shown standing with his wife and sons. Although he is noticeably darker than his ‘pale’ family, this reflects a convention of ancient portraiture, in which a dark male contrasts a pale female. For examples, see Hanfmann (1964), pl. XVIII-XX, pl. XXIX, pl. XLII-XLIII, pl. XLVIII; Rozenberg (1993), 129, pl. 61; Grant (1975), 33-36, 52-53, and 144-145.
[3] Ancient Lepcis probably covered some 7,000 sq. km.: Barton (1995), pp.7-9; cf. Mattingly (1995), 143.
[4] Mattingly, op. cit., 116; MacKendrick (1980), 143.
[5] Birley Septimius, 3.
[6] Mattingly, op. cit., 117; Jones (1989), pp.92-95.
[7] Sjöström (1993), 4-16; Mattingly, op. cit., 8-9, 24-26.
[8] Hdt. 4.175.
[9] Mattingly, op. cit., 155-157. The Saharan caravan route passed through Garama, ‘capital’ of the Garamantian tribe. See Daniels (1970), passim.
[10] Mattingly, op. cit., 143; Mattingly (1988), p.31; Barton, op. cit., p.7; Carandini (1983), p.151.
[11] Livy 34.62; Caesar BAfr.7, 9, 29,97; BC 38; Plutarch Caesar 55.
[12] Hdt. 5.42.
[13] Livy 29.33. See Birley Septimius, 4-7; Badian (1996), pp.799-800.
[14] Muller et al (1977), 70-75.
[15] The Italian business community at Cirta is a good example, as is Herennius, the Roman banker based at Lepcis in the early first century. The colony at Carthage, founded under the auspices of Gaius Gracchus, was soon abandoned. See Sallust BJ 20.2-3; 26.1-3; Cicero II Verr.1.14; 5.155f; Thompson (1969a), pp.132-181; Thompson (1969b), pp.235-249; Sherwin-White (1939), 172ff; Strabo Geog. 17.832-833.
[16] Sallust BJ 77.1-2.
[17] Sallust BJ 77.2-4. L. Calpurnius Bestia (cos. 111), Sp. Postumius Albinus (cos. 110) and Q. Caecilius Metellus (cos. 109). Broughton (1951), 540-545.
[18] See Caesar BC 2.37; BA 97.
[19] Caesar BAfr.7, 9, 29, 97; BC 11, 38; Plutarch Caesar 55.
[20] Unusually, an ex-consul with military command governed Africa. Caligula removed this anomaly by restricting the proconsul to civilian affairs and granting the legate of III Augusta control over the entire southern border of Numidia. Wilson et al (1996), p.34. Conventional wisdom dates the foundation of Proconsularis to 27BCE. Shaw (1995b), 369-380, proposes the much earlier date of c.40-39BCE. L. Cornelius Balbus, proconsul in 20 BCE, fought several campaigns against the Garamantes and Gaetuli. Pliny NH 5.5.36; Vell. Pat. 2.51.3. Syme (1939), 80, 235, 325, 339, 367; Daniels (1987), 223-265; Daniels (1989), p.45.
[21] The Forum Vetus is dated by IRT520 to Piso’s proconsulship (5BCE – 2CE), Haynes, op. cit., 85-90.
[22] IRT 319; Libya, 56-69; Haynes, op. cit., 89-95; MacKendrick, op. cit., 148; Birley Septimius, 13-15. The Tapapii are one of the most important families in first century Lepcis.
[23] IRT 324; Libya, 70-75. The man’s full name was Iddibal Caphada Aemilius.
[24] Libya, 75; Haynes, op. cit., 92-93.
[25] IRT 321-323; Haynes, op. cit., 89-90.
[26] Haynes, op. cit., 88-89, 90.
[27] See AE 1952.232; 1905.177; Goodchild (1969), pp.155-171; Thomasson (1984), col. 373.
[28] Zanker (1998), 107-109; 79; Laurence (1994), 32-34.
[29] Zanker, op. cit., 79-82.
[30] Zanker, op. cit., 93-102.
[31] Tac. Ann.2.52; Whittaker (1978), pp.344-345; Whittaker (1983), pp.110-111.
[32] Tac. Ann.3.20-21, 73-74; 4.23-26.
[33] AE 1960, 107.
[34] IRT 337, 339-340.
[35] The work is recorded in a bilingual inscription. IRT 338 gives the Latin text and IPT 26 gives the Punic translation. G’y ben Hanno may be the brother of the sufes during whose term the Forum statue group was dedicated. See IPT 22; Libya, 76.
[36] IRT 615, here given the extra name Phelyssam.
[37] Libya, 80-83.
[38] IRT 341, dedicated 10th Dec. 61 – 9th Dec. 62. The Punic text (IPT 23) honours Ithymbal’s aunt Arishut, the daughter of Yatonbaal ‘the builder’. For the harbour, see Libya, 80-83.
[39] Tacitus Hist. 4.50; Pliny NH 5.5.36-38; Barton (1995), p.7.
[40] Birley Septimius, 16.
[41] IRT 342, 346, 347; Sherwin-White, op. cit., 52f., 109f., 195ff. IRT 305 has IIIv[ir…] pot. IPT 30 gives mahazim. See also IPT 9.
[42] IRT 342.
[43] CIL5.6990. Although only the statue to Gallicus’ wife survives, it seems to have been one of a pair. See IRT 300; Libya, 76, dedicated in 72CE.
[44] Statius Silvae 4 praef. 10.
[45] Pliny Ep. 2.11; Syme (1958), 70-71; Birley, Septimius 21; Birley (1988), p.6; Talbert (1983), 284.
[46] IRT 624; Reynolds (1955), p.129.
[47] IRT 412; 353; 284; MacKendrick, op. cit., 149; Sherwin-White, op. cit., 38.
[48] IRT 353; Libya, 86.
[49] IRT 357-359. This important amenity allowed the construction of a number of fountains throughout Lepcis, Libya, 89-90. IRT 275 records Candidus making a dedication to the temple of Liber Pater.
[50] Libya, 92-95.
[51] Ti. Plautius Lupus: IRT 593, 632, 634. Libya, 95-96, gives Plautianus, whilst IRT 263 reads Rufinianus.
[52] IRT 316.
[53] Duncan-Jones (1962), no.68.
[54] For Africa, see Thompson, op. cit., pp.132-181.
[55] Cic. In Verrem 2.5.155; Thompson (1969b), p.236.
[56] IRT 320; 328. The epithet ‘Lepcitani’ seems to have been intended to distinguish this family from others with the same name. For their exact relationship to Septimius see below, page? Romanelli (1958), 258-261; Thompson (1969b), p.237; Birley (1988), p.3.
[57] IRT 335; 706; Thompson (1969b), pp.237-238.
[58] Thompson, op. cit., p.239.
[59] For examples of this influence, see Caesar BC 2.36; BA 36, 68, 88, 90, 97; Sallust BJ 26, 64.
[60] Thompson, op. cit., pp.239-240.
[61] IRT 270, 276, 277 Q. Julius Justus; 276 Julia Fausta; 573 Julius Ho[…]; 598 (x2) Ti. Julius Frontinus & his son Ti. Julius Fronto; 650 Julius Kamerinus; 693 M. Julius Cethegus; 713 Julia Capitolina; 714 Julia Clymenis; 715 C. Julius Silvanus; 858 Julius […]nus T[…]. Torelli (1973), stemma, adds one Julia Serviliana. Of these, Ti. Julius Frontinus and his son Ti. Julius Fronto were most probably granted citizenship under Trajan. Their tribe is the Papiria, in which all Lepcitanes were enrolled after the city became a colony, whilst their names recall Ti. Julius Ferox (cos. 99), who acted as advocate for Lepcis during the trial of Marius Priscus. Di Vita-Evrard (1982), p.457; Birley (1988), p.6.
[62] See the index to IRT and Birley (1988), pp.7-8.
[63] IRT 482. Other Aelii are also a possibility. In particular, see the C. Aelius Rufinus mentioned in IRT 587 & 593; C. Aelius Crescens & Aelia Myris (658); Aelia Donata (883); 658. Birley, op. cit., 7-8.
[64] Thompson, op. cit., p.244.
[65] There are thirteen extant Claudii in IRT, nos. 316; 318 & 347; 467; 517; 533; 534; 646; 680; 681; 682; 683.
[66] IRT 318 & 347
[67] IPT 27.
[68] IRT 590.
[69] Birley, op. cit., pp.7-8.
[70] Birley, op. cit., p.7.
[71] IRT 275, 357-359; Libya, 89-90.
[72] IRT 316.
[73] See below, page 39
[74] Libya, 76.
[75] Sufes: IRT 294 (Sobti); 319; 321; 322; 323; 341; 347; 348; 349a; 412; 599; 600; 602. The six Flavian examples are IRT 294; 347; 348; 349a; 412; 600.
[76] Aediles: IRT 498; 590; 597; 599. IRT 498; 590 & 599 appear to date to the later first century.
[77] See the index to IRT for full details. The five clear examples are: IRT 562-563 Fl(avius) Archonitis Nilus; 700-701 Flavius Capito; 292 T. Flavius [..]arinus; 564 & 595 T. Flavius Frontinus Heraclius; 888 T. Flavius Capito Io[…; 567-568 T. Flavius Vibianus.
[78] Thomasson, op. cit., P no.43.
[79] Birley, op. cit., p.8. Birley cites ten members of the gens Septimii on the basis that their name recalls Septimius Flaccus, a Flavian legate based at Lepcis. It is extremely unlikely that this man’s cognomen was Septimius. See below, pages 31-32.
[80] Ulpii: IRT 281; 388 & 440; 631; 753; 850; 859. 388 & 440; 753; 859 all share the emperor’s praenomen.
[81] There are no extant Pomponii in the local epigraphic record. Thomasson LP, col. 379, no. 63.
[82] Birley, op. cit., p.7.
[83] See Augustine Ep. 66.2; 84.2 &108.14; 209.3; Procopius de Bello Vandalico 4.10.20.
[84] IRT 318, 347 = IPT 2; IRT 349a = IPT 9.
[85] African Latin, as a whole, was known for its peculiar vocalisations, including mispronouncing the letter L, lengthening initial short vowels and a particular inability to adapt Punic sibilants. Apuleius Apol. 24.1; Flor. 9.7; St. Aug. Confess.1.18; Doctr. Christ.4.10.24; Isidore Orig.1.31.8; Pompeius Maurus Gramm. Lat.5.285.6; Consentius Gramm. Lat.392; Jerome Ep.103.5; De Musica 2.1.1. Birley Septimius, 35, suggests that Septimius may have pronounced his own name as ‘Sheptimiush Sheverush’.
[86] Adams (1994), pp.87-112.
[87] The poem dates to early 222. Iasucthan’s inability to distinguish vowel length seems to have been the underlying cause of the problem. Thus lines 11, 15, 17, 21, and 23 all have too many syllables for a hexameter poem, whilst Adams remarks that lines 20 and 22 are so badly wrong that ‘…analysis is pointless’. Adams (1999), pp.109-114.
[88] Avidius’ poem dates to 202-203: Adams, op. cit., pp.124-125.
[89] Adams, op. cit., p.114-115, p.123.
[90] Elmayer (1984), pp.93-105.
[91] See Marrou, op. cit., 265-291.
[92] Epit. De Caes. 20.8.
[93] HA Sev. 15.7.
[94] HA Sev.18.9.
[95] HA Sev. 1.2.
[96] IRT 412 gives his name as Lucius Septimius Severus.
[97] Kajanto LC, 244, gives thirteen examples of the name in Africa. In addition to HA Sev. 1.2, it also appears as the name of a sufes on Oea’s coinage and on IRT 338 (=IPT 26) & 615. It is possible that it could also derive from a Punic or Libyan root. See Muller et al, op. cit., 70-75; Mattingly (1995); Jongeling (1994), 7-8, 77, 94-95; Elmayer (1984), p.93f for examples.
[98] IRT 338=IPT 26.
[99] IRT 615.
[100] Birley Septimius, App. 2 no. 23. The earlier Lives of the HA often record such relationships. See HA Marc. 1.4; HA Comm. 1.1-2; HA Verus 1.7-8 (records his great-grandfather’s consular rank); HA Hadr. 1.2-3 (Hadrian’s great-grandfather’s grandfather); HA Pius 1.2 (grandfather only). Birley (1970), pp.59-78; Magie (1960), 371-429.
[101] Birley Septimius, 18, 217ff.
[102] Magie (1960), pp.370-371, does not mention it.
[103] Ptolemy 1.8.4. Cf. CIL 8.1839 = 16499 and ILAlg. 1.3002 Cn. Suellio Fl[acco] leg. Aug. pro p[r.] and IRT 854 = AE 1940.70 ‘Suelli Flacci Aug. pro. pr.’; Zonaras 11.19; Eusebius chron. MMCII. Birley, Coup p.255 n.36, no doubt realising the weakness of his identification, plaintively remarks that Thomasson ‘does not identify Suellius Flaccus with Septimius Flaccus’. It must be said however, that Thomasson’s judicious inclusion of both names is only to be expected in such a fasti (LP, 395; FA, N12-N13).
[104] Thomasson LP, col. 114 no.21; Leunissen Konsuln, 131.
[105] IRT 412-413.
[106] IRT352, dedicated some time between January 101 and December 102.
[107] HA Sev. 1.2 states that Septimius’ family had equestrian status before citizenship was made universal. Lucius’ post as iudex proves it.
[108] This identification is disputed. Birley accepts it, see Coup, p.253-254; (1970), p.61-62; Septimius, App.2 no.26. See also Raven (1993), 147; Barton (1972), 71-74; Hardie (1983), 179. Barnes (1967), p.87 disagrees. See also Coleman (1988), 159.
[109] Silvae 4 praef. 10. This style of poem was popular during the later first century and borrowed heavily from Horace. See Pliny Ep. 9.22; Hardie, op. cit., 58-72; Coleman, op. cit., 156-157.
[110] Coleman (1988), 166.
[111] Silvae 4.5.35-6. Cf. Gell. 12.1.20. Martial 2.96, describes a German drinking from the Aqua Marcia as though it were the Rhine. See Coleman, op. cit., 167.
[112] Sermo which primarily means speech and language, also has the sense of good diction and hence manners, see Coleman, op. cit., 169. Cicero uses sermo in this sense in his description of Tullia: Cic. Q.Fr. 1.33; also Moxley, op. cit., 241 n.D. Septimius, as a poet himself, must have paid particular attention to correct pronunciation, just as Greek sophists of the period went to great lengths to imitate Attic Greek: Coleman, op.cit., 158; Bowersock (1969), 1-29.
[113] Coleman, op. cit., 168; Birley Septimius, 20.
[114] Silvae 4 praef. 10.
[115] Silvae 4.5.30; Coleman, op. cit., 166.
[116] Pliny Ep. 3.7, remarks that Silius Italicus’ Punica contained some 12, 200 verses! See Hardie, op. cit., 178-180.
[117] Hardie, op. cit., 180, 236 n.61.
[118] Statius’ friend was probably in his early twenties when Silvae Book Four was published. The emperor’s grandfather, a iudex at Rome in the late first and early second centuries, was probably born in the mid to late 60s. See Birley Coup, p.253.
[119] Silvae 4 praef. 10.
[120] HA Sev. 4.5 (erroneously recorded as Germania); Barnes, op. cit., p.87; Birley Coup, pp.253-254.
[121] See Hammond, op. cit., pp.140-143. Supported by Birley Coup, p.254; ignored by Barnes, op. cit., p..88. The above translation is Magie’s, op. cit., 378-378.
[122] CIL 11.3816 (Via Cassia). This is probably Lucius’ son Publius.
[123] Statius’ friend is described as a iuvenis (Silvae 4 praef. 10). Although the term strictly means ‘youth’ it was used to refer to young noblemen, of either equestrian or senatorial background, aged between fourteen and seventeen. It was also used in a wider sense to include equites under 35: Balsdon & Levick (1996), pp.791-792; Dixon (1992), 133-138. For Lucius see IRT 412.12-13 (‘inter selctos Romae iudicavit’); Barnes, op. cit., p.88; Birley Coup, pp.253-254.
[124] Statius’ friend is stated to have been a fellow school pupil with Vitorius: Silvae 4 praef. 10; Coleman, op. cit., 158.
[125] Geta is a rare name. Of the eighteen surviving examples, ten are found in Africa (seven of which come from Tripolitania), Kajanto LC, 204; Birley (1988b), pp.15-16. Gaetulus/Gaetulicus (referring to the Gaetulii tribe) was often spelt as Getulus/Getulicus and could also be shortened to Geta. IRT 649 records one M. Pompeius Gaetulicus and his son M. Pompeius Geta Chirit. See also Kajanto (1965), 206.
[126] Some time after Lucan’s death in 65CE, Polla married one Pollius Felix. Statius frequently mentions Polla. See Silvae 2.2.10; 3.1.87, 159, 179; 4.8.14; 2. Praef and 7. See Nisbet (1978), pp.1-11; Birley Septimus, App.2 no.10; 233 n.1.
[127] HA Sev.1.2; HA Geta2.1 states that Marius Maximus wrote about Geta at great length. Birley Septimius, App.2.no.20.
[128] CIL 8.19493 (Cirta) and IRT414 (Lepcis) are the only two extant inscriptions set up in his honour.
[129] IRT597.
[130] IRT 607; Duncan-Jones (1962), no.68.
[131] HA Sev.1.2; IRT 415-416.
[132] IRT 417. Octavilla must have come from an otherwise unattested relative.
[133] Septimia’s husband (name unknown) cannot have been a senator before this incident; otherwise the emperor’s grant of the broad stripe to their son would have been unnecessary. Birley Septimius, App. 2, no.8.
[134] CIL 6.1415. Flavia Neratia Septimia Octavilla, Octavianus’ daughter, set up the inscription. Birley Septimius, App. 2, no.17; IRT, p.19; PIR 2 N50.
[135] HA Sev.1.2.
[136] Birley Septimius, App.2 no.15, no.25. See pages 57-58.
[137] IL Alg.1.1283. The text names the proconsul as ‘-mius Severus’ and so surely refers to the emperor’s relative. Di Vita-Evrard (1963), p.398ff.
[138] AE 1967.536. Thomasson (1996), P 89, reproduces the text.
[139] CIL 14.3004; Barnes Family, p.89.
[140] Barnes, op. cit., pp.89-90.
[141] AE 1971.534. Examined by Sherwin-White (1973), pp.86-98.
[142] Sherwin-White, op. cit., pp.86-89.
[143] AE 1971.534.44.
[144] See page 28.
[145] IRT 316.
[146] The meaning of Afer is unclear. It could mean either ‘African’ or ‘Boar’. Birley Coup, 258ff.; Birley Septimius, App.2.no. 15.
[147] Caius, as a senior figure in Antonine Lepcis, is likely to have been a mature man. A birth date in the later first century CE is therefore eminently possible.
[148] IRT 318 & 347: Ti. Claudius Sestius (senior and junior). IRT 590: Ti. Claudius Amicus. Both names are suggestive of native origin.
[149] Cf. Ad Am. 1.12.1 where Fronto, writing to his son-in-law, refers to ‘familiam nostram’ (‘our family’) Champlin (1980), 10, 145 n.32. See also Birley Coup, p.269
[150] PIR 2 P287.
[151] Champlin, op. cit., 9-10; PIR 2 P312 and stemma; Birley Coup, p.269; Birley Septimius, 27f., App. 2 nos. 57, 58, 59; Syme (1980a), pp.1293-1298.
[152] Champlin, op. cit., 28. For Aufidius Fronto see PIR 2 A1385; Alfoldy Senat, p.135; Barbieri Albo, no.69. For Aufidius Victorinus, see PIR 2 A1394; Alfoldy Senat, p.135; Barbieri Albo, no.72.
[153] Alfoldy Senat, p.158.
[154] IRT 624; Reynolds (1955), p.129.
[155] Paccia’s names suggest that various ancestors of hers were given citizenship during the proconsulships of Marcius Barea and Paccius Africanus. She is a rather mysterious figure, dying probably in 185. Although HA Sev.3.1-2 remarks that Septimius ‘made no mention of her in the history of his life as a private man’, several statues were set up by him in her honour, IRT 410-411(Lepcis); CIL 8.19494 (Cirta). Birley Septimius, 75, App.2 no.56.
[156] HA Sev. 8.1-3.
[157] HA Sev 1.2; IRT 415-416.
[158] IRT320 & 328; Birley Septimius, 220. See page 24.
[159] Thompson (1969b), p.246, suggests that the Plautii were enfranchised at the behest of Ti. Plautius Silvanus Aelianus, son of L. Aelius Lamia (proconsul under Tiberius). After Plautianus’ (PIR 2 F 554) fall from grace and execution in 205, he suffered damnatio memoriae and all public record of him was destroyed. His children, Publia Fulvia Plautilla (PIR 2 F 564) and C. Fulvius Plautius Hortensianus (PIR 2 F 555) were both exiled and later put to death by Caracalla. Birley Septimius, App. 2, nos. 29, 32, 33. Other Fulvii include the emperor’s maternal grandfather, Fulvius Pius (HA Sev.1.2), Fulvius Pius, cos. ord. in 238 (PIR 2 F 553, Barbieri Albo, no.1054) and one C. Fulvius Pius (AE 1930.67).
[160] The father’s praenomen was commonly reserved for the eldest son. Salway (1994), p.125; Birley Septimius, App. 2, no. 21; cf. IRT, p.19; Barnes, op. cit., p.91, p.107. Geta’s career probably began in 162, it ended with a second consulship in 203. See IRT 541. See Chapter Two, page 52.
[161] Mattingly Tripoli., 153-155, Table 7.1.
[162] P Michigan 5474 quoted in Birley Septimius, 274.


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