Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2017.03.56 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2017.03.56

Diego M. Escámez de Vera, Sodales Flaviales Titiales: Culto imperial y legitimación en época Flavia. Collection Latomus 356.   Bruxelles:  Éditions Latomus, 2016.  Pp. 117.  ISBN 9789042934146.  €25,00.  


Reviewed by John Jacobs, Montclair Kimberley Academy (jjacobs@mka.org)

Table of Contents

The Capitoline played a central role in the legitimation of the Flavians as the location of both the Templum divi Vespasiani (et divi Titi) at the base of the hill and the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus (twice destroyed and twice restored between the civil war of A.D. 69 and the death of Domitian in A.D. 96) at its peak. In this brief study, Escámez de Vera offers the first full treatment of an important facet of the political and religious relationship between the Flavians and Jupiter by assembling and assessing the existing evidence for the college of priests known as the sodales Flaviales (Titiales). In chapter 1, “Introducción” (pp. 3-4), the author explains how Titus created this sodalitas in order to honor his father, divus Vespasianus, in imitation of the sodales Augustales (Claudiales) which Tiberius had instituted in order to honor Augustus. Unfortunately, we know very little about the organization, composition, and function of the sodales Flaviales, apart from the fact that the college served to legitimate Flavian power and prestige by transforming the entire gens Flavia into a family of divi and divae. In a pivotal article which initially appeared in BCAR 63 (1935), Momigliano posited a link between the sodales Flaviales and the flamen Dialis both in light of and in support of the special relationship between the Flavians and Jupiter. Across the two major chapters of the book, Escámez de Vera seeks to buttress the argument in favor of such a link by reviewing the existing evidence, especially the epigraphical data, and by situating that material in its larger historical and cultural context(s).

In chapter 2, “Sodales Flauiales Titiales: creación, estructura y contexto ideológico” (pp. 5-39), Escámez de Vera outlines what we know (and what we think we know) about the sodality. Vespasian’s apotheosis played a crucial role in establishing the divine foundations of the Flavian dynasty by cementing the family’s connection with Jupiter and the Capitol. Three building projects undertaken by Titus and Domitian both celebrated their father’s apotheosis and extended the divinization to the gens Flavia as a whole: the Templum divi Vespasiani (et divi Titi), the Porticus Divorum, and the Templum Gentis Flaviae. The sodales Flaviales were modeled after the sodales Augustales, which were, in turn, modeled after the more ancient sodales Titii, themselves revived by Augustus. Escámez de Vera convincingly argues that Domitian sought to strike a (delicate) balance between the divinization of Vespasian and Titus as individuals (in preparation for his own future apotheosis, of course) and the divinization of the entire family (in part, so that he could justify the apotheosis of his infant son). The author carefully reviews the archaeological, epigraphical, and numismatic evidence and thoughtfully engages with the existing scholarship. Ultimately, “Domiciano crearía así, ..., una suerte de tríada terrenal frente a la tríada Capitolina en la que él, hijo pequeño de Vespasiano, ocuparía el tercer lugar, como había venido haciendo de forma tradicional la diosa que elige como protectora, Minerva” (p. 26, cf. p. 90). Concerning election to the priesthood, Escámez de Vera underscores the religious authority of the princeps as pontifex maximus reflected in his powers of nominatio and commendatio: perhaps not surprisingly, the epigraphical evidence demonstrates that the “founding” members of the sodality were all “personas de extrema confianza de la dinastía imperial” (p. 31). Concerning the acta of the Temple of Jupiter Propugnator (CIL 6.2004-2009), Escámez de Vera confirms their identification as the records of the sodales Flaviales Titiales and uses them to study the organization of the college: perhaps not surprisingly once again, the imperial family exerted control over all aspects of the sodalitas, especially its membership. The chapter ends with the question which inspired Momigliano’s article (and which Escámez de Vera tackles in the following chapter): “¿dónde está el teórico flamen diui Vespasiani o diui Titi mencionado por la epigrafía a escala provincial pero desconocido en Roma?” (p. 39).

In chapter 3, “El flamen Dialis y los sodales Flauiales Titiales (pp. 41-87), Escámez de Vera takes up that fundamental question with a fresh examination of the available evidence, including materials which have come to light (and which continue to come to light) in the years since Momigliano first published his piece. While there is no mention of a flamen divi Vespasiani or a flamen divi Titi in Rome, there are abundant references to such flamines in the provinces: see p. 43 n. 281 for the ample list given in J. Suess, Divine justification: Flavian Imperial cult (Oxford, 2011), 118 n. 107; for another recent list, see G. McIntyre, A family of gods: The worship of the Imperial family in the Latin West (Ann Arbor, 2016), 145-147. The notable absence of such flamines in Rome may simply reflect a gap in the epigraphical record, or it may suggest that the position was filled by another of the flamines and, more specifically, the flamen Dialis. In support of this idea, Escámez de Vera cites the famous passage from Suetonius Domitian 4.4 in which we see the flamen Dialis and the sodales Flaviales Titiales seated together in royal garb alongside the emperor at the inauguration of the Agon Capitolinus in A.D. 86: everything about the passage strongly suggests that the flamen Dialis served as the leader of the college. The Lex de flamonio provinciae Narbonensis (CIL 12.6038 = ILS 6964), which Fishwick dates to the time of Vespasian, but which Escámez de Vera ascribes to the reign of Domitian, likewise attests to the intentional modeling of provincial priest(ess)hoods after the flamen and flaminica Dialis back in Rome. Escámez de Vera discovers further evidence for the status of the flamen Dialis as the leader of the sodales Flaviales Titiales in the sculptural program of the three Flavian temples discussed earlier in the book. In particular, the author identifies two iconographical attributes of the flamen Dialis on the Flavian monuments, namely, an albogalerus on the frieze of the Templum divi Vespasiani and a commoetaculum above the head of the flamen in one of the Hartwig-Kelsey Reliefs from the Templum Gentis Flaviae—a key detail which the author himself confirmed through autopsy (pp. 66-67). More broadly speaking, the Flavians, especially Domitian, cultivated the association with the flamen Dialis in order to bolster their claim to rule by divine right and strategically rebuilt the Capitol in order to solidify their hold on that most sacred of Rome’s seven hills—with some measure of success, since the sodalitas lived on after the death of Domitian and the end of the dynasty until at least Septimius Severus.

Escámez de Vera offers a succinct distillation of his major claims and arguments in chapter 4, “Conclusiones” (pp. 89-90), followed by “Anexo I: Corpus epigráfico” (pp. 91-99), “Anexo II: Imágenes” (pp. 101-110), and a “Bibliografía” (pp. 111-117): for another recent text (along with a translation) of the Hispellum Rescript included in Anexo I, see N. Lenski, Constantine and the cities: Imperial authority and civic politics (Philadelphia, 2016), 118-119. The book contains the usual smattering of typographical errors, none serious, although the incorrect word divisions can be distracting. While Escámez de Vera certainly pays as much attention to the literary as he does to the archaeological, epigraphical, and numismatic evidence, he still could have done more with literature, especially with Flavian epic, to flesh out his presentation of the larger context for the special relationship between the Flavians and Jupiter. Likewise, the author could have cast his net wider in terms of bibliography; I note the following omissions, although at least some of these works likely appeared too late to be included in the volume: W. Schubert, Jupiter in den Epen der Flavierzeit (Frankfurt am Main, 1984); P. E. Davies, Death and the emperor: Roman Imperial funerary monuments from Augustus to Marcus Aurelius (Austin, 2004); H. Lindsay, “Vespasian and the city of Rome: The centrality of the Capitolium,” AClass 53 (2010), 165-180; J. C. Quinn and A. Wilson, “Capitolia,” JRS 103 (2013), 117-173; U. Morelli, Domiziano: Fine di una dinastia (Wiesbaden, 2014); and A. Heinemann, “Jupiter, die Flavier und das Kapitol; oder: Wie man einen Bürgerkrieg gewinnt,” in H. Börm, M. Mattheis, and J. Wienand (eds.), Civil war in ancient Greece and Rome: Contexs of disintegration and reintegration (Stuttgart, 2016), 187-235.

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