Monday, 21 December 2020

Something Completely Different

The Roman Service Record of Petronius Fortunatus early second century AD.

Kasserine, Tunisia (Cillium)

[…] militavit L annis, IV in leg(ione) I Ita[lica]
librar(ius), tesser(arius), optio, signif(er), [7 = (centurio)]
factus ex suffragio leg(ionis) eiu[sdem]
militavit 7 leg(ionis) I Ital(icae), 7 leg(ionis) VI F[erratae],
7 leg(ionis) I Min(erviae), 7 leg(ionis) X Gem(inae), 7 leg(ionis) II A[di(utricis)]
7 leg(ionis) III Aug(ustae), 7 leg(ionis) II[I] Gall(icae), 7 leg(ionis) XXX U[l]p(iae),
7 leg(ionis) VI Vic(tricis), 7 leg(ionis) III Cyr(enaicae), 7 leg(ionis) XV Apol(linaris),
7 leg(ionis) II Par(thicae), 7 leg(ionis) I Adiutricis,
consecutus ob virtutem in
expeditionem Parthicam
coronam muralem vallarem
torques et phaleras, agit in
diem operis perfecti annos LXXX,
sibi et
Claudiae Marciae Capitolinae
koniugi karissimae, quae agit
in diem operis perfecti
annos LXV; et
M(arco) Petronio Fortunato filio,
militavit ann(is) VI, 7 leg(ionis) X[X]II Primig(eniae),
7 leg(ionis) II Aug(ustae), vixit ann(is) XXXV
cui Fortunatus et Marcia parentes
karissimo memoriam fecerunt


‘… served 50 years, 4 in the First Legion Italica as librarius, tesserarius, optio, signifer, made centurion by vote of the said legion; served as centurion of the First Legion Italica, and of the Sixth Legion Ferrata, the First Legion Minervia, the Tenth Legion Gemina, the Second Legion Adiutrix, the Third Legion Augusta, the Third Legion Gallica, the Thirtieth Legion Ulpia, the Sixth Legion Victrix, the Third Legion Cyrenaica, the Fifteenth Legion Apollinaris, the Second Legion Parthica, the First Legion Adiutrix; awarded the Mural Crown, the Rampart Crown, Torques and Arm-bands, for his valour in the Parthian campaign; aged 80 the day this work was finished. For himself and his dearest wife, Claudia Marcia Capitolina, aged 65 the day this work was finished; and for his son Marcus Petronius Fortunatus, who served six years, centurion of the Twenty-Second Legion Primigenia, centurion of the Second Legion Augusta, aged 35; for whom his parents Fortunatus and Marcia erected this monument to their dearest son.’

Both father and son had been centurions in Britain, the father in the Sixth Legion at York, his son in the Second Legion at Caerleon, although he may actually have died on active service. Skilful analysis of the father’s career by Eric Birley, Val Maxfield and Tony Birley, has outlined its chronology.39 It was unusually long and geographically diverse, taking Fortunatus from the lower Danube (Legion I Italica) to Jerusalem (VI Ferrata), and then probably to the detachments of European legions which served in the Parthian campaign of Lucius Verus (AD 162–6). It is this campaign to which he refers, not that of Septimius Severus, to judge by the lavish scale of his decorations. From here he went to Africa (III Augusta), then back to Syria (III Gallica), followed by the lower Rhine (XXX Ulpia) and even Britain (VI Victrix), before returning to the eastern frontier, that is to Arabia (III Cyrenaica) and the upper Euphrates (XV Apollinaris). By now in his late 60s, he was transferred to Severus’ new Second Legion Parthica (embodied c. AD 197), where like Virilis he may have been responsible for training recruits. Finally he served on the middle Danube with the First Legion Adiutrix. According to this chronology, he joined the First Legion Italica in the mid-AD 150s in his mid-20s, and retired 50 years later in his mid-70s. He implies that his son had died quite recently, which would place his birth (and his father’s informal marriage) in the mid- AD 170s.

Extracted from Britannia Romana by R S O Tomlin and published by Oxbow Books in 2018.

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