Monday, 29 October 2007

The Rewards of Service

A splendid new Latin inscription was discovered this week at Carberry. The find spot is near the Roman fort of Inveresk, which lay on the south coast of the Firth of Forth forming part of the Antonine frontier, and the new inscription may well be contemporary.

Carberry tombstoneThe find is a tombstone belonging to Crescens, a Roman cavalryman, and would originally have sported an ostentatious depiction of the man in action. This part probably broke off when the stone fell over, and perhaps awaits discovery in the earth nearby. The part that remains is the short curriculum vitae appended by Crescens' heir, who erected the stone in his memory.

"To the shades of the departed and of Crescens, cavalryman of the ala Sebosiana, one-time member of the governor's horseguard, who served for 15 years. His heir set this up."

It was common for the men of the auxiliary regiments, both horse and foot, to be selected for the provincial governor's bodyguard, the equites and pedites singulares. Professor Michael Speidel, the pre-eminent scholar of Roman guard units, thought that each province's guards were organised into a mixed numerus singularium ("unit of guards"), but this tombstone specifically states that Crescens was ex numero equitum singularium ("previously in the unit of horse guards"). In 1978, Professor Speidel noted with regret that "no direct evidence for singulares has come to light in Britain yet". Today, he should be delighted.


  1. On vacation Antoninus? I hope you're back soon.

  2. Just been busy, Jeff. Big empire to rule!
    (Thanks for asking.)

  3. I sincerely understand. Rule on!