BMCR 2020.12.26

Il “senatus consultum de Plarasensibus et Aphrodisiensibus” del 39 a. C.

, , Il "senatus consultum de Plarasensibus et Aphrodisiensibus" del 39 a. C. Edizione, traduzione e commento. Studien und Materialien, Band 7. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2020. Pp. 205. ISBN 9783515126373 €78,00.

With their new edition of the senatus consultum de Plarasensibus et Aphrodisiensibus from 39 BC (henceforth SC) Andrea Raggi and Pierangelo Buongiorno provide a welcome update on this important inscription, which was labelled “la perle des inscriptions d’Aphrodisias au point de vue historique“ by Louis Robert.[1] It is the longest surviving, epigraphically attested senatorial decree in Greek (we have more than half of the original inscription, which measured 3.4m (h) x 2.7m (w)). Large parts of it still remain in situ on the southern wall of the north parodos in the theater of Aphrodisias, where a number of important documents (a triumviral letter, the SC, a triumviral decree, letters and subscriptiones of emperors) dating from the 1st c. BC to 243 AD were re-inscribed in the first half of the 3rd c. AD. To refer to this wall as a civic ‘archive wall’, as has been common ever since Joyce Reynolds coined the term in her seminal publication of this epigraphic material (Aphrodisias and Rome, London 1982), is too interpretative and rather misleading, and the term has been criticized by several scholars (Raggi and Buongiorno p. 21 fn. 4). The new designation ‘muro delle iscrizioni’ proposed by Raggi and Buongiorno (p. 21) is also not fully satisfactory, as it remains too unspecific and does not do justice to the nature of the whole monument as an ensemble. Given that almost all the texts selected for monumentalization here convey a sense of the city’s pride in the privileges granted to it by Roman authorities, something like ‘wall of pride’ might be a more appropriate name. The exact reasons and circumstances for its creation are still under debate.[2]

The book by Raggi and Buongiorno consists of four parts. The introduction (p. 9–19) provides a concise overview of the historical context of the triumviral entanglements in 40–39 BC, and of Aphrodisias’ situation in the late Republican period and its involvement with Rome. Chapter 2 (p. 20–88) starts with a very useful account of the history of discovery as well as an exhaustive description of the individual blocks of the SC. The general placement of the fragments not in situ as established by Reynolds is confirmed with only minor adjustments. Raggi and Buongiorno provide measurements in all cases, mostly based on autopsy, and on this basis they calculate the probable numbers of lines per block and letters per line. All this exceeds the comparable passages in Reynold’s monograph both in length and in detail and puts Raggi and Buongiorno’s textual reconstructions on a sound footing. Some general differences which distinguish Raggi and Buongiorno’s new edition from Reynolds’ are: the divisions of the individual blocks, and the incised dots and circles used as stops/word dividers are marked consistently; following the Leiden Conventions, double square brackets are used for erasures (Reynolds uses underlining) and curly brackets are used for superfluous letters to be deleted as inscribed erroneously (Reynolds uses double square brackets); text which is known only from earlier editions (‘Sherard’s block’) is underlined (Reynolds does not mark it at all). All this facilitates the understanding of the SC as an inscribed monument and does justice to the current standards of epigraphic publications. In their reconstructions and commentary Raggi and Buongiorno build on their thorough knowledge of the corpus of senatus consulta both in Latin and Greek and on the ever-growing number of epigraphic testimonies providing helpful points of comparison.[3] In general, Raggi and Buongiorno are a bit more cautious with their reconstructions and do not print some of Reynolds’ suggestions in their edition (e.g. ll. 18, 30, 70, 76, 84, 89). The most important new contributions of Raggi and Buongiorno regarding the textual reconstruction of the SC are:

1. 4: Based on scholarship published after the publication of Reynolds’ monograph, the meeting place of the Senate on the Palatine can in all likelihood be filled in here as the temple of Magna Mater.

1. 11: As suggested by Ernst Badian,[4] the text on the stone is emended to Γναῖος {Σ} Ἥδιος Γαΐου υἱὸς Κλαυ[δία, who is identified as a younger brother of C. Hedius C. f. Claudia Thorus in ll. 8–9.

11. 14–16: Καλουείσιος at the end of l. 14 is clearly legible on the stone (this had already been pointed out by Glen Bowersock[5]); that it appears in Reynolds’ edition as [Καλουείσιος] is a mere printing mistake, she intended double square brackets, i.e. deletion, as her commentary makes clear. She identified this person with the consul of 39 BC, C. Calvisius C. f. Sabinus, and has it followed by his colleague L. Marcus L. f. Censorinus, so that ll. 14–15 would be the beginning of the relatio of the consuls rendering the ambassador’s speech before the Senate in indirect speech (until l. 20). This is rejected by Raggi and Buongiorno, who consider ll. 14–15 to be a continuation of the list of senators and the Calvisius mentioned most probably a relative of the consul. For them, ll. 16–20 constitute the ambassador’s relatio (see also p. 106–108), which seems indeed the more plausible solution.

11. 20–21: Also based on the probable original Latin wording, Raggi and Buongiorno convincingly reconstruct the beginning of the decree a line earlier than Reynolds.

11. 27–29: The reconstructions offered by Raggi and Buongiorno (ἐν τῇδε τῇ τάξει [γνώμας ἀπεφήναντο ὑπὸ τῆς καλλίστης? προ]|[αιρέσεω?]ς • ἐξοχωτάτης τε πίστεως ἣν τοῖς δημοσίοις πράγμασ[ιν καὶ τῇ συνκλήτῳ αὐτὴ? ἡ πολειτήα διὰ τέλους?]|[παρέσχηκ?]ε) are good alternatives to Reynolds’ (ἐν τῇδε τῇ τάξει [?λόγους ἐποιήσαντο περὶ τῆς ?καλλίστης προ?]|[αιρέσεως] ἐξοχωτάτης τε πίστεως ἣν τοῖς δημοσίοις πράγμασι[ν ὁ δῆμος ὁ Πλαρασέων καὶ Ἀφροδεισιέων]|[?παρέσχηκ]ε). However, they do not change the meaning of the passages in any substantial way.

11. 29–30: Here, Raggi and Buongiorno’s reconstruction ([τοὺς αὐτοὺς καὶ τὰς ἐκείνων γυναῖκας, τέκνα ἐ]γ̣̣γόνους τε αὐτῶν ἀτελεῖς πάντων τῶν πραγμάτων εἶν[αι]) is to be preferred to Reynolds’ ([Πλαρασεῖς καὶ Ἀφροδεισιεῖς αὐτοὺς καὶ τέκνα ἐ]γ̣γόνους τε αὐτῶν ἀτελεῖς πάντων τῶν πραγμάτων εἶν[αι]).

1. 38: To reconstruct Julius Caesar’s name as the one who first granted asylia to the sanctuary of Aphrodite in Aphrodisias seems most plausible (and is also supported by Reynolds, who had initially flirted with Sulla here).

11. 73–75: Here again, Raggi and Buongiorno’s reconstructions ([Περὶ δὲ ὧν Λεύκιος Μάρκιος Κηνσωρεῖνος, ΓάϊοςΚαλουείσιος Σαβεῖ]ν̣ος ὕπατοι λόγους ἐποιήσαντο, |[περὶ τούτων τῶν πραγμάτων οὕτως ἔδοξεν· ὅπως ὕπατοι, ἐὰναὐτοῖς φαίνηται, τοῖς κατὰ] π̣όλιν ταμίαις ἐπιτάξωσιν εἰς τὸ |[τῶν φίλων διάταγμα τούτους ἀνενεχθῆναι ξένιά τεπρεσβευταῖς) are more elegant and convincing than Reynolds ([Περὶ δὲ ὧν Γάϊος Καλουείσιος, Λεύκιος ΜάρκιοςΚηνσωρεῖ]ν̣ος ὕπατοι λόγους ἐποιήσαντο |[?ὅπως Λεύκιος Μάρκιος Κηνωρεῖνος καὶ Γάϊος Καλουείσιος ὕπατοι τοῖςκατὰ] π̣όλιν ταμίαις ἐπιτάξωσιν εἰς τὸ |[αἰράριον ?ἀναφέρειν ὄνομα καὶ ξένια τῷ πρεσβευτῇ), without changing the overall meaning of the passage.

After the edition follows an Italian translation and the first reconstruction of the original Latin text of the SC based on all the epigraphic evidence available today (earlier reconstructions all preceded Reynolds’ publication). This is not a mere showcasing of the authors’ philological skills, but proves useful for a better understanding of the wording of the Greek text in a number of cases (e.g. ll. 20, 23, 27, 30, 50) and can occasionally even serve as a basis for reconstructions (e.g. ll. 20, 46, 90).[6]

Chapter 3 (p. 89–151) is dedicated to specific issues arising from the text and can be seen as a more exhaustive general commentary. Its first part revisits the list of senators at the beginning of the SC (ll. 4–15) contributing only occasionally prosopographical information which is not also given by Reynolds (e.g. n. 8, 19). What follows is a detailed analysis of the structure of the SC and its relationship to standard senatorial procedures, and this is, next to the edition of the text, surely one of the most important and valuable contributions of Raggi and Buongiorno’s monograph. I would like to point out the brilliant analysis of ll. 26–39 as three triumviral sententiae which are immediately afterwards confirmed in a specular way by three senatorial decreta in ll. 39–54, which gives an excellent explanation for the otherwise odd repetitions between these passages (p. 110–115). The structural overview chart on p. 120–121 helps to make the text much more accessible and understandable and will surely be very useful to experts, as well as students and non-specialists. The third part of Chapter 3 sheds light on the archival organisation in Rome (consular and quaestorian archives arranged by series of codices/δέλτοι for different genres of texts for each month which were made up of different tabulae/κηρώματα, wooden wax tablets inscribed on both sides). In the fourth part, a brief overview of the evidence for the asylia of Aphrodisias’ main sanctuary, the temple of Aphrodite, is given. Chapter 3 closes with a useful discussion of the various privileges granted to Aphrodisias and the different legal implications of the city’s status as civitas libera.

The appendix-like Chapter 4 (p. 152–167) conveniently presents the two inscriptions Reynolds n. 6 and 9 (editions with minor adjustments, translations, brief commentaries) which are closely related to the SC and were also inscribed on the ‘wall of pride’.

The book is concluded by an up-to-date bibliography, various indices, and 16 tables with high quality photographs of the stones carrying the SC. For an impression of the layout of the whole SC as an inscribed monument, the drawing by Morag Woudhuysen in Reynolds (between p. 54 and 55) is still very useful, despite its minor inaccuracies. To get a good idea of the whole layout of the ‘wall of pride’ and the SC’s place in it, one needs to consult the helpful reconstruction in Kokkinia 2015–2016 (s. fn. 2), p. 55. Throughout the book, translation especially of the many Latin quotes would have made it easier to follow the details of argumentation in a number of places.

While Raggi and Buongiorno’s book does not substantially invalidate Reynolds’ achievement and in fact reproduces many of her findings and comments, it is however a very welcome and meritorious contribution complementing previous scholarship with its more Roman juridical perspective, thus furthering the understanding of this important text and elucidating a great number of its details. One can only hope that it finds wide dissemination outside of Italy.


[1] Inscriptions d’Aphrodisias. Première partie, L’Antiquité Classique 35 (1966), p. 377–432, here 408.

[2] Reynolds (p. 36–37) suggested that the establishment of a new dynasty under Septimius Severus in AD 193 might have prompted it (which is at odds with her observation that the two letters of Septimius Severus and Caracalla were inscribed at the same time as the one of Severus Alexander); Raggi and Buongiorno point to the fact that Aphrodisias became the capital of the new province Phrygia and Caria in the mid-3rd c. AD (there is however no reference to this new status in the surviving texts); C. Kokkinia, The design of the «archive wall» of Aphrodisias, Τεκμήρια 13 (2015–2016), p. 9–55 convincingly locates the first phase of the monument’s composition in AD 224 and links it to unknown ‘events during Alexander Severus’ reign’ (47).

[3] E.g. Caesar’s decree granting asylia to Sardis (published in P. Herrmann, Rom und die Asylie der griechischen Heiligtümer: Eine Urkunde des Dictators Caesar aus Sardeis, Chiron 19 (1989), p. 127–164) or the Asian customs law (M. Cottier et al. (eds), The Customs Law of Asia, Oxford; New York 2008), both not known to Reynolds.

[4] Notes on a New List of Roman Senators, ZPE 55 (1984), p. 101–113, here 111.

[5] Review of Reynolds, Aphrodisias and Rome, Gnomon 56/1 (1984), p. 48–53, here 52.

[6] Another recent laudable example of this practice is the publication of the Customs Law of Asia (s. fn. 3).