Wednesday, 22 October 2008

What gladiator?


So, the tomb of Marcus Nonius Macrinus has been found at Saxa Rubra, north of Rome.

This is the man hailed as the inspiration for the character of Maximus Decimus Meridius in the movie Gladiator. But, needless to say, no Roman senator ever became a gladiator.

Macrinus' career was already well-known from a long Greek inscription found in the ancient city of Ephesus, where his statue must have stood. Catalogued as no. 8830 in Hermann Dessau's Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae, the inscription lists the succession of posts held by Macrinus, first under Antoninus Pius, and then under Marcus Aurelius: tribune of legion XVII (surely a mistake for XVI), legate of legion XIV Gemina, praetorian governor of Lower Pannonia, consular governor of Upper Pannonia, and finally proconsul of Asia. The inscription pointedly refers to him as "general and companion of the greatest emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus".

The newly discovered inscription is badly damaged and only a fragment has so far come to light. But it clearly records that Macrinus was comes et legatus imperatoris Antonini Augusti, "companion and legate of the emperor Antoninus Augustus".


  1. Why not Legio Seventeen?

  2. Legions XVII, XVIII, XIX were destroyed in the Teutoburg Forest disaster of AD 9. They were never re-formed. I'm guessing that the stonecutter mistakenly wrote heptakaideikotês instead of hexakaideikotês -- an easy mistake to make.

    The inscription is in Greek, but Dessau included it in the Appendix Titulorum Graecorum (Appendix of Greek Inscriptions) to his famous catalogue of Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae (Selected Latin Inscriptions).

    The error would be even easier in Latin, where a rogue "I" makes all the difference. It's even possible that the Greek stonecutter was drafting out his text from a Latin version.

  3. So be it. And further research means that we are unlikely to find any legions between XXIII and XXIX.

    Interesting....So many legions with the same number, you can only tell them apart by the name. A fruitful research indeed.

  4. Definately, hence Legio II Augusta, Legio II Adiutrix, Legio II Ulpia, Legio II Italica and Legio II Parthica, all different legions raised at different times.