The Titulus Tiburtinus, Syme’s Piso, Sentius Saturninus and the Province of Syria

Nikos Kokkinos


A previous paper on the titulus Tiburtinus re-opened the debate concerning the notorious ignotus, then generally thought to be P. Sulpicius Quirinius (cos. 12 BC), suggesting instead that he might be identified with C. Sentius Saturninus (cos. 19 BC). This suggestion was subsequently challenged in favour of L. Calpurnius Piso (cos. 15 BC), who had originally been argued by Sir Ronald Syme. Since the identification of the consular concerned is significant for Augustan prosopography and for the history of Asia, among other provinces such as Syria and Germany, a detailed and wide-ranging restatement of the case for Saturninus is made here. Piso (unlike Quirinius) is really a non-starter, and it is surprising that he would have been supported by formidable Syme. The rex of the titulus could not have been Rhescuporis I or Rhoemetalces I. The iterum would not have referred to the second legateship of Piso (presumably that of Syria) given Piso’s early career. The binas, referring to two public thanksgivings, does not inspire confidence in Piso receiving a second supplicatio. Piso the Pontifex is not attested as proconsul of Asia, nor is he attested as governor of Syria, and the reconstruction of the fasti of this province is much more reasonable than previously thought. By contrast, all points in Saturninus career can be successfully compared with the information in the titulus. Origins of the Sentii from an area near Tibur is a bonus, if dispensable. Saturninus could not have been proconsul of Africa at the time inferred from Tertullian (29 BC), and hence Asia is open for him in c. 14/13 BC. His office in Syria (c. 12–8 BC) is well-attested, as it is that in Germany (c. AD 3–6). He was awarded ornamenta triumphalia in the company of Tiberius, after ‘two’ victories and no doubt supplicationes binas. Finally, a flexible understanding of the word iterum can accommodate also the meanings ‘for another time’ and ‘twice’, either of which can work with the career of Saturninus. As for deprived Quirinius, among various problems, no two thanksgivings can be conceived for a war such as that of the Homonadenses, and, most condemningly, a reference to his important office under Gaius will never have been omitted in the titulus.

Słowa kluczowe: the Titulus Tiburtinus, Roman provincial administration, Roman governors, Syria

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