Saturday, 9 June 2007

A soldier's diploma

Roman DiplomaHow bizarre!

Utah County's Deseret News web site reports that the Harold B. Lee Library (Brigham Young University) has on display "replicas of two 2nd-century, Roman, bronze metal plates that date back to A.D. 109". They are important, it seems, because they are "relevant to the Book of Mormon plates". BYU professor of law John W. Welch is quoted as saying that "This may be the best example of ancient writing on metal plates anywhere in the world".

Let me point out, firstly, that the university library also has the originals, and secondly, that they are examples of a very widespread phenomenon: the Roman auxiliary soldier's diploma, or guarantee of citizenship.

The BYU artefact is known to epigraphers (or students of inscriptions) as RMD III, 148. (It was published in 1993 by the late Margaret Roxan in her Roman Military Diplomas, volume 3: hence, "RMD III".) There, she noted that it had been issued on October 14, AD 109, to one Marcus Herennius Polymita, who had probably been recruited to his unit, cohors I Montanorum, in AD 84. The diploma was discovered in the Roman province of Moesia Superior, some 30km from the legionary base at Viminacium.

So what has all this got to do with the Book of Mormon?!


  1. Hello Antoninus. I like your site and I am sure I will re-visit.

    Comment on your

    "The pride of the Roman cavalry was the horsemen of the alae." The subject of this sentence is plural -- there were lots of horsemen in the alae -- so the verb must be plural, too. The pride of the Roman cavalry were the horsemen of the alae. See? That's a lot better. (By the way, alae is just a technical term for the Roman cavalry regiments.)

    In the interests of a good argument (Monty Python style) I would like to recast your recasting as

    "The pride of the Roman cavalry was the horseman of the ala"

    Best wishes Patrick Herts UK

  2. "The pride of the Roman cavalry was the horseman of the ala"

    Hmmmm ... but which horseman?!