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Text, Translation and Commentary of the Giessen PapyrusGiessen Papyrus

Papyrus GissensisReconstruction of P. Giss. 40, I

1) [Αὐτοκράτωρ Καῖσαρ Μά]ρκο[ς Α]ὐρή[λιος Σεουῆρος Ἀ]ντωνῖνο[ς] Ε[ὐσεβὴ]ς λέγει

[πάντως εἰς τὸ θεῖον χρὴ] µᾶλλον ἀν[αφέρειν καὶ τὰ]ς αἰτίας κ[α]ὶ [λογι]σµοὺς

[δικαίως δ’ἄν κἀγὼ τοῖς θ]εοῖς τ[οῖ]ς ἀθ[αν]άτοις εὐχαριστήσα[ι]µι ὅτι τὴς τοιαύτη[ς]

[ἐπιβουλῆς γενοµένης σῷο]ν ἐµὲ συν[ετ]ήρησαν τοιγαροῦν νοµίζω [ο]ὕτω µε –

5) [γαλοπρεπῶς καὶ εὐσεβ]ῶς δύ[να]σθαι τῇ µεγαλειότητι αὐτῶν το ἱκανὸν ποι –

[εῖν, εἰ τοὺς ἐν τῇ ἀρχῇ ὁσ]άκις ἐὰν ὑ[πε]ισέλθ[ωσ]ιν εἰς τοὺς ἐµοὺς ἀν[θρ]ώπους

[ὡς Ῥωµαίους εἰς τὰ ἱερὰ τῶν] θεῶν συνει[σ]ενέγ[κοιµ]ι Δίδω[µ]ι τοί[ν]υν ἅπα–

[σι τοῖς κατὰ τὴν Ῥωµαϊκ]ὴν οἰκουµένην π[ολειτ]είαν Ῥωµ[αί]ων [µ]ένοντος

[τοῦ δικαίου τῶν πολιτευµ]άτων χωρ[ὶς] τῶν [ἀδδ]ειτικίων Ὀ[φ]είλει [γ]ὰρ τὸ

10) [πλῆθος οὐ µόνον τἄλλα συνυποµέ]νειν πάντα ἀ[λλ]ὰ ἤδη κ[α]ὶ τῇ νίκῃ ἐνπεριει –

[λῆφθαι Τοῦτο δὲ τὸ διάτ]αγµα ἐ[ξαπ]λώσει [τὴν] µεγαλειότητα [το]ῦ Ῥωµα[ί]

[ων δήµου συµβαίνει γὰρ τὴν αὐτὴ]ν περὶ τοῦς [ἄλλο]υς γεγενῆσθα[ι] ᾗπερ δ[ι]α–

[πρέπουσιν ἀνέκαθεν Ῥωµαῖοι τιµῇ κα]ταλειφ[θέντων µηδέν]ων τῶ[ν] ἑκάστης

[χώρας ἐν οἰκουµένῃ ἀπολιτεύτων ἢ ἀτιµ]ήτω[ν Ἂπο δὲ τῶν] π[ρ]οσ[όδων τῶν νῦν]

15) [ὑπερχουσῶν συντελούντων, ἅπερ ἐκελεύσ]θη [παρὰ Ῥωµαίων ἀπὸ τοῦ κα ἔτους, ]1

[ὡς δίκαιον ἐκ τῶν διαταγµάτων καὶ ἐπιστολ]ῶ[ν, ἅ ἐξεδόθη ὑφ’ ἡµῶν τε]

[καὶ τῶν ἡµετέρων προγόνων Προετέθη ……………………..]

  1. W3K: [Σεβαστὸς Ἀ]ντονῖνο[ς] O: Σ[εβαστὸ]ς λέγει MBSS2WHW2

  2. WH: ἀν[αβαλόµενον τὰ]ς αἰτίας MS: ἀν[ τὰ]ς αἰτίας W3K: λ[ογι]σµοὺ[ς] S2WHW2 W3OK: λ[ιβ]έλλου[ς] MS

  3. WHO: [ζητεῖν, ὅπως ἂν τοῖς θ]εοῖς MS: [τίνι ἄν τρόπῳ ἀξίως τοῖς θ]εοῖς S2W2

  4. SWHW2: [συµφορᾶς γενοµένης] B: [ἐπιβουλῆς ἄφνω γενοµένης] W3O

  5. W2: [γάλως καὶ φιλανθρώπ]ως S: [γαλοµερῶς καὶ θεοπρεπ]ῶς WH: [γαλοµερῶς ἄν καὶ εὐσεβ]ῶς W3O

  6. S: [εἰ τοσάκις µυρίους ὁσ]άκις S2WHW2: [εἰ τοὺς ξένους ὁσ]άκις M: [εἰ τοὺς βαρβάρους ὁσ]άκις B: [εἰ νῦν ἅπαντας, καὶ ὁσ]άκις W3O

  7. WH: [ἰσοτίµους εἰς τὰ ἱερὰ τῶ]ν θεῶν SW2: [καὶ ἄλλοι, εἰς τὰ ἱερὰ τῶ]ν θεῶν O: [εἰς τὰς θρησκείας τῶ]ν θεῶν M: [εἰς θρησκείας τῶν ἡµετέρω]ν θεῶν W3: τοί[ν]υν ἅπα- MBSS2WHW2: τοῖ[ς σ]υνάπα- W3OK

  8. H: [σιν ὅσοι ἐὰν ὦσι κατὰ τὴ]ν οἰκουµένην S2W2: [σιν ξένοις τοῖς κατὰ τὴ]ν οἰκουµένην M: [σιν ἐπηλύταις τοῖς κατὰ τ]ὴν οἰκουµένην B: [σιν τοῖς οὖσι κατὰ τ]ὴν οἰκουµένην S: [σιν τοῖς κατοικοῦσιν τὴ]ν οἰκουµένην W: [σιν ἐν τῇ ἀρχῇ µου κατὰ τ]ὴν οἰκουµένην W3O: [σιν κατὰ τ]ὴν οἰκουµένην K: π[ολειτ]είαν HW3K: π[ολιτ]είαν MBSS2WW2

  9. W3OK: [παντὸς γένους πολιτευµ]άτων M: [τῷ φίσκῳ τοῦ λόγου ἀπαραβ]άτως B: [πολιτικοῦ σφισιν ἀπαραβ]άτως S: [ξένου οὐδενὸς τῶν πολιτευµ]άτων S2: [οὐδενὸς ἐκτὸς τῶν πολιτευµ]άτων W: [δὲ ξενου οὐδενὸς τῶν ταγµ]άτων H: [οὐδενὸς τῶν πρὶν ἐλασσωµ]άτων W2: [ἀδδ]ειτικίων W3: [δε]δειτικίων MBSS2WH: [δη]δειτικίων W2: [ ]δειτικίων K

  10. WH: [οὐ µόνον συµπο]νεῖν S: [οὐ µόνον συνκινδυνε]ύειν S2: deest O

  11. MSS2: [τοῦτο δὲ τὸ ἐµὸν διάτ]αγµα W: [τοῦτο δὲ τὸ ἐµαυτοῦ διάτ]αγµα H: ἐ[ξαπ]λώσει WH: ἐ[κδ]ελώσει S: ἐ[ξο]λώσει S2: deest O

  12. WH: [κελεύω δὲ τὴν αὐτὴν χάρι]ν B: [ων δήµου διὰ τὸ τὴν αὐτὴν τάξι]ν S: [ων δήµου µετὰ τὸ τὴν ἴσην τιµὴ]ν S2: deest O

  13. WH: [τὴν εὐγένειαν Ῥωµαῖοι] S2: deest MBSW2W3OK

  14. H: deest MBSS2WW2W3OK

  15. H: deest MBSS2WW2W3OK

    H: deest MBSS2WW2W3OK

  16. H: deest MBSS2WW2W3OK

M Meyer, P. M. 1920: Juristische Papyri: Erklärung von Urkunden zur Einführung in die Juristische Papyruskunde, Berlin.

B Bickermann, E. 1926: Das Edikt des Kaisers CaracallaCaracalla in P. Giss. 40, Diss., Berlin.

S Schönbauer, E. 1931: ‘Reichsrecht gegen Volksrecht? Studien über die Bedeutung der Constitutio AntoninianaConstitutio Antoniniana für die römische Rechtsentwicklung’, ZRG 51, 277–335.

S2 Stroux, J. 1933: ‘Die Constitutio AntoninianaConstitutio Antoniniana’, Philologus 88, 272–295.

W Wilhelm, A. 1934: ‘Die Constitutio AntoninianaConstitutio Antoniniana’, American Journal of Archaeology 38, 178–80.

H Heichelheim, F. M. 1941: The Text of the “Constitutio AntoninianaConstitutio Antoniniana” and the Three Other Decrees of the Emperor CaracallaCaracalla Contained in Papyrus GissensisPapyrus Gissensis 40, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 26, 10–22.

W2 Weissert, D. 1963: ‘Bemerkungen zum Wortlaut des P. Giss. 40 I (Constitutio AntoninianaConstitutio Antoniniana) Z. 1–9’, Hermes 91, 239–50.

W3 Wolff, H. 1976: Die Constitutio AntoninianaConstitutio Antoniniana und Papyrus GissensisPapyrus Gissensis 40 I, Diss., Köln.

O Oliver, J. H. 1989: Greek DediticiiConstitutions of Early CitizenshipRoman Emperors from Inscriptions and Papyri, Philadelphia.

K Kuhlmann, P. A. 1994: Die Giessener Literarischen Papyri und die CaracallaCaracalla-Erlasse, Giessen.


The Emperor Caesar Marcus AureliusMarcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus PiusAntoninus Pius decrees: It is altogether necessary to attribute the causes and reasons [of recent events] to the divine. I, personally, would rightly thank the immortal gods, since although such a conspiracy [as that of GetaGeta] has occurred, they have watched over me and protected me. I think that I am able, both magnificently and piously, to do something fitting to the gods’ majesty, if I manage to bring [all] those in the empire, who constitute my people, to the temples of the gods as CitizenshipRomans. I therefore give everyone in the CitizenshipRoman world the CitizenshipRoman Citizenshipcitizenship: preserving customary law, without additional privileges. It is necessary for the masses not only to share in our burden, but also to be included in victory. This decree will spread the magnificence of the CitizenshipRoman people. For it now happens that the same greatness has occurred for everyone, by the honour in which the CitizenshipRomans have been preeminent since time immemorial, with no-one from any country in the world being left stateless or without honour. Referring to the taxes that exist at present, all are due to pay those that have been imposed upon the CitizenshipRomans from the beginning of their twenty-first year [of age], as it is the law, according to the edicts and rescripts issued by us and our ancestors. Displayed publically …

General Observations and Antonine ConstitutionDating

Even a cursory glance at the document reveals that P. Giss. 40 has suffered extensive wear and damage, most notably on the left-hand side where the text of the constitutio is written. From comparison of the left and (largely complete) right sides of the papyrus, it can be estimated that around one third of the upper left side of the document is missing. The damage in this area is compounded by a large vertical tear in the middle of the surviving papyrus which has obliterated yet more script. The lower left-hand section of P. Giss. 40 is in an even more damaged state. The large tear that has destroyed some of the upper left side extends further into the papyrus and has left only around thirty characters of text remaining. Smaller localised tears and holes in areas suggest that the papyrus has suffered worm-damage, while areas where the top-layer of the document is damaged (more visible on the right side of the papyrus) are the result of damage sustained in the document’s afterlife when the museum attempted to glaze it.2

The other visible form of damage on P. Giss. 40 is in the form of dark patches spread over the surface of the papyrus, especially in the upper-right quadrant. This is indicative of water damage sustained in February 1945, when the papyrus was being held in the safe of the Dresdner Bank.3 This has caused the felt back-layer, added to the artefact by the museum, to become fused to the papyrus. Considering the severely damaged nature of the Giessen PapyrusGiessen papyrus, it is hardly surprising that much of the academic focus directed towards the document has concerned the necessary Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction of the Greek text.

Despite the severe damage to the artefact, however, the availability of high-resolution photographs of the papyrus from the Giessener Papyri- und Ostraka-Datenbank has facilitated a far more detailed analysis of the text than was ever possible in the past. The text of P. Giss. 40 is presented in a legible, cursive script of Koine Greek. Meyer claimed that the text was of a ‘careful, clerical’ nature, while Kuhlmann has concluded that the papyrus is business-like in appearance and that the script is ‘regular and aesthetic’.4 The characters are clear and of a regular size, 0.3–0.4cm wide in the majority of cases, often using capitalised versions of characters and lunate sigmas (c). In the course of the text, there are larger spaces between the different sections of the documents to allow ease of legibility.5 This feature permits a more confident estimate regarding the number of missing letters in the various lacunae. The script appears to be of a formal style found throughout the second and third centuries CE. It does not exhibit the elongated chancery stylisation of some official papyri of this period, particularly from the Alexandrian Chancery (P. Berol. inv. 11532, for example); the rather more rounded characters group this papyri with those of a bureaucratic context, the attractive calligraphic script reminiscent of literary papyri.6

In spite of its aesthetic quality, there are minor irregularities.7 There are numerous ligatures throughout the papyrus. The appearance of iota varies from a small compact line to a larger, sweeping version that impacts on the line of script below. Epsilons are written sometimes as tall, narrow characters with three short but equidistant bars, while in other places they are written with an extended central bar, joining to other letters. Omicron is presented in a very small form, often higher in the line than other letters, and the letter π is notable for being considerably wider than the majority of the other characters.8

Some of the oddities, in particular that of the omicron being reduced in size, exhibit certain traits of the more simplistic style that was to evolve throughout the later third century and from the time of Diocletian into the ‘upright ogival majuscule’ style of writing that was common throughout late antiquity and the Byzantine era.9 This apparent combination of stylistic features allows us to assign a time period for this artefact with more confidence. The style of writing, when combined with the subject matter of the text, means that a Antonine Constitutiondating of the early third century CE is convincing.


Line 1: From the surviving script alone, it is relatively clear that this line is a formulaic list of imperial titles introducing the emperor making the decree. This edition has opted to restore the penultimate word in the line as Εὐσεβής rather than Σεβαστός. The damage to the papyrus around the initial letter of the word makes it difficult to decipher the character beyond all doubt. The shape does bear a close similarity to the larger scale lunate sigmas found throughout the text. Magnification of the high- resolution image of the papyrus, however, appears to reveal a trace of ink concurrent with the middle bar of a capitalised epsilon.10

Line 2: The beginning of this line has prompted a variety of different wordings, although the sentiment remains roughly the same. The attribution of certain events to divine powers by CaracallaCaracalla is repeated from Stroux onwards. This edition supports the version offered by Wilhelm and later Heichelheim, a good compromise between the earlier edition of Stroux and the later one of Weissert. Owing to the visibility of –σµους at the end of the line, it is palaeographically impossible to accept the earlier versions of Meyer, Bickermann and Schönbauer. The suggestion of λογισµούς by Stroux is far more acceptable. This conjecture was supported by Schubart in addition to Wilhelm and Heichelheim, becoming the traditionally accepted Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction.11 In this Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction, αἰτίας κ[α]ὶ [λογι]σµοὺς translates as the reasons and causes of recent events to which CaracallaCaracalla was referring, thus making any attempt to restore λιβέλλους unwarranted.

Line 3: Similar to the second line, there is an underlying sentiment that is brought out in all of the Papyrus Gissensisreconstructions. The feeling of gratitude expressed by CaracallaCaracalla is shown by the nearly complete Papyrus Gissensissurvival of εὐχαριστήσαιµι (‘I would thank’). Owing to the generally literary feel of the text, the slightly more eloquent version offered by Wilhelm and Heichelheim is, again, perhaps the closest to the spirit of the original. The genitive τὴς τοιαύτη[ς] is part of a genitive absolute construction, which refers to an unspecified incident that had taken place in the recent past. This event is most probably a conspiracy (ἐπιβουλῆς γενοµένης), mentioned in the following line.

Line 4: Of all the editions cited above, Meyer is the only one not to stress the feeling of a struggle or misfortune that CaracallaCaracalla has been saved from. This edition’s text is based upon the versions offered by Schönbauer and Wilhelm, beginning with ἐπιβουλῆς. The alternative version offered by Heichelheim in which the upsilon is omitted is not incorrect, since both essentially infer an attempt made against CaracallaCaracalla’s life, but ἐπιβουλή conveys a more secretive and conspiratorial feeling that is better in keeping with CaracallaCaracalla’s reputed statements in the aftermath of GetaGeta’s murder. This version is closer to a passage in Dio where the author described CaracallaCaracalla addressing the troops in an attempt to persuade them that he was, in fact, the victim of an attempted coup d’état.12 While we must be careful not to allow Dio’s text to influence our Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction excessively, it is tempting to imagine that he would have seen the original edict and allowed it to colour the language used in his later account of events.

Line 5: In his commentary, Oliver concluded that it was not possible to discern confidently the two adverbs employed on the papyrus to describe the emperor’s great act of gratitude to the gods for saving him.13 While this edition concurs with Weissert’s use of the adverb εὐσεβώς in the second position, I have opted to agree with Meyer and Stroux that the adverb µεγαλοπρεπῶς is more appropriate for the word at the beginning of the line. Both µεγαλοµερής and µεγαλοπρεπής have been used to mean ‘magnificence’ but the latter appears to carry an added sense of an act befitting a great man, an inference that may be attached to CaracallaCaracalla’s position as emperor.14

Line 6: This edition has opted not to accept the version preferred by Stroux, Wilhelm, Heichelheim and Weissert, since their Papyrus Gissensisreconstructions leave a vague impression of the people that the emperor intended to bring to the temples of the gods as CitizenshipRoman citizens (see line seven, below).15 The version by Schönbauer, however, maintains the idea of the vast scale of CaracallaCaracalla’s plans while at the same time providing a more precise notion of their intended extent. Oliver has noted that the phrase ἐν τῇ ἀρχῇ appearing in the line was again similarly used by Dio when describing the scale of the constitutio.16

Line 7: All of the Papyrus Gissensisreconstructions of this line bear connotations of masses being brought together in religious devotion, further describing CaracallaCaracalla’s debt of gratitude outlined in lines five and six. This edition favours the more pointed Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction of Wilhelm and Heichelheim, with its emphasis on the importance of bringing all those under the emperor’s authority to the temples as CitizenshipRomans rather than merely assorted subject peoples.17

There is a minor disagreement regarding the nature of the final two words of the line, where CaracallaCaracalla declares that the gift (that he has yet to disclose) will be given to all under his power. The traditionally accepted version only acknowledges one letter space in the lacuna near the end of the line, leaving a Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction τοί[ν]υν ἅπα | σιν. This has been challenged by both Wolff and Kuhlmann who have claimed that there is space for two letters in the lacuna, offering the alternative Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction τοί[ς σ]υνάπα | σιν. The space does appear to be large enough to fit two lunate sigmas, but it is also possible that the scribe simply left a slightly larger separation between the two words for ease of legibility.

This edition has therefore opted for the more traditional restoration of τοίνυν. The appearance of an inferential particle is the better semantic choice since it refers back to the events that prompted CaracallaCaracalla’s edict rather than leaving the great gift of Citizenshipcitizenship entirely separate from its context. The causative link that τοίνυν creates between the two sentences at this juncture makes it the more naturally acceptable choice.

Line 8: It is in this line that the grant of CitizenshipRoman Citizenshipcitizenship is outlined. The Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction of the lacuna in the middle of the extant script as π[ολιτ]είαν is nearly universally accepted in the different Papyrus Gissensisreconstructions of this line.18 This is of crucial importance, as acceptance of this phrase equates to an agreement that this text is a record of the universal Citizenshipcitizenship decree. This edition concurs with the restoration of Heichelheim who is consistent in his emphasis of the Romanitas of the grant.

It should be noted that in maintaining the potential Romanitas of the edict through the wording τοῖς κατὰ τὴν Ῥωµαϊκὴν οἰκουµένην, this text echoes the Latin description of the decree outlined by UlpianUlpian, who may be safely assumed to have been familiar with the original.19 The jurist was explicit that the edict affected those in orbe Romano qui sunt.20 The Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction of the participle µένοντος at the end of the line is also universally accepted but will be discussed below in connection with line nine.

Line 9: The text of line nine outlines the nature and scale of CaracallaCaracalla’s mass enfranchisement. The majority of the controversy regarding this section of P. Giss. 40 regards the prepositional phrase (χωρίς + genitive) contained at the end of the line, a small lacuna obscuring the pivotal word, currently reading only as […]ειτικιων. In his original Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction of the text, Meyer concluded that this word ought to be restored as δεδιτικίων.21 This is a Hellenised version of the Latin Dediticiidediticii, a term used by Gaius to describe population groups subjugated by RomeRome via an official act of surrender (deditio).22 While the Greek spelling has been questioned, with δηδειτικίων becoming the preferred option, this Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction represented the communis opinio for many years.23

Despite the traditional academic support for a Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction including mention of the Dediticiidediticii, however, it was far from a perfect answer. If the Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction of δηδειτικίων was palaeographically correct, it might appear to mean that CaracallaCaracalla’s extension of the franchise was not universal. This immediately presents a dilemma, since the only extant contemporary source that actively described the scale of the constitutio, that of UlpianUlpian, mentions no such exception or caveat to the edict.24 It would seem careless of a jurist of UlpianUlpian’s character to omit such an important legal detail.25

The potential contradiction in the ancient evidence led some to question the nature of the exclusion inferred by the prepositional phrase χωρίς + genitive. One explanation offered in the past is that the text contained on P. Giss. 40 did not, in fact, make reference to the grant of civitas itself, but rather to some associated grant or supplement.26 The problem with this, however, is that, without any clear analogies that can be drawn from other texts, such a hypothesis relies upon imagination and speculation.27

The inescapably conjectural nature of these analyses has led others to doubt the very existence of any mention of Dediticiidediticii in connection with the constitutio text. Benario, for example, has voiced his scepticism, pointing to the silence of Dio on the subject: ‘if a significant portion of the population had been barred from the enjoyment of the emperor’s gift, Dio would, in all likelihood, not have failed to mention it, since he was a bitter enemy of the ruler.’28 Whilst the ‘unabashed hatred’ of Dio for CaracallaCaracalla is well-known, one must be careful not to exaggerate or assume the intentions of any ancient source.29

It is safer simply to observe that if, in the course of the Institutes, Gaius was correct that the Dediticiidediticii were completely bereft of political identity and could never, under any condition, hope to attain the rights of CitizenshipRoman Citizenshipcitizenship, then there must have been as little requirement to stipulate their exclusion from the terms of the Antonine ConstitutionAntonine DediticiiConstitution as there would have been for the slave population. The idea that CaracallaCaracalla’s edict made specific mention of one population group, whose ineligibility would already likely have been automatically assumed, seems a rather tautological explanation of the status quo.30 Moreover, the fact remains that the fundamental existence of δηδειτικίων in the ninth line of P. Giss. 40 is far from assured; the hapax legomenon forms a problematic and unsatisfying suggestion for the complement of χωρίς.31 With this in mind, it is appropriate to seek an alternative explanation regarding this area of the text preserved on the Giessen PapyrusGiessen papyrus.

The publication of materials relating to the Antonine document known as the Tabula Banasitana has changed the nature of this debate and allows for an analysis of the Constitutio AntoninianaConstitutio Antoniniana removed from the difficulties presented by the Dediticiidediticii. The tabula is a bronze tablet containing three letters Antonine Constitutiondating to the latter half of the second century CE, discovered near the ancient settlement of Banasa in Morocco in 1957.32 The first document is a letter, Antonine Constitutiondating to c. 168, which was addressed from the emperors Marcus AureliusMarcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus to the governor of Mauretania TingitanaMauretania Tingitana and concerned the enfranchisement of a local notable known as Julian the Zegrensian (who had petitioned for a grant of Citizenshipcitizenship despite not being the leader of his community) and his family. The second letter, dated early in 177 and from Marcus AureliusMarcus Aurelius and CommodusCommodus, was addressed to the provincial governor and concerned the Citizenshipcitizenship of the family of the new chieftain of the Zegrensians, another Julian (who is sometimes assumed to be the son of the subject of the previous letter preserved in the inscription).33 The final document in the tablet is an extract from a commentarius, which recorded the grant of civitas to the younger Julian, and would have made the conferral valid.

Of particular importance to any analysis of the Antonine ConstitutionAntonine DediticiiConstitution is the way in which certain qualifications were placed upon the grant of civitas to the Mauretanian and his descendants in the course of the earlier tabula. The grant of Citizenshipcitizenship in this case was applied both salvo iure gentis and sine diminutione tributorum et vectigalium populi et fisci.34 The first of these clauses states that the grant of civitas Romanorum would not exclude the recipient from the legal framework and obligations of their parent communities, thereby preserving customary law (Roman Lawius gentium). The second of the clauses found in the tabula forms a clear statement that the newly enfranchised individual would not enjoy the fiscal immunity experienced by citizens under the early years of the Principate, and would be fully obligated to make tax payments.35

A similarity between the Latin of the Tabula Banasitana and the Greek of the Constitutio AntoninianaConstitutio Antoniniana texts can be identified when reconstructing the controversial eighth and ninth lines of CaracallaCaracalla’s edict. The modern Consensusconsensus on this portion of the text is that the clause immediately following the grant of civitas in the papyrus ought to read: µένοντος τοῦ δικαίου τῶν πολιτευµάτων.36 The underlying sentiment here, that even the mass enfranchisement of 212 honoured the existence of local custom, seems to form an easily identifiable Greek equivalent of salvo iure gentis.37

The existence of these Latin formulae tempering the grant of Citizenshipcitizenship allows for another interpretation to be made of the problematic ninth line of P. Giss. 40. If the µένοντος clause bridging lines eight and nine of P. Giss. 40 is agreed to form a Hellenised construction preserving the local Roman Lawius gentium, then it is logical that the exclusionary clause which follows it should similarly mirror the Latin construction found in the Tabula Banasitana, which emphasised the newly enfranchised citizens’ liability to pay taxes. In every edition of the constitutio text that includes mention of the Dediticiidediticii, the Greek χωρίς is always translated meaning ‘except’. An alternative translation for this term, however, would be ‘without’.38 This alternative translation would certainly seem to mirror the Antonine document, with χωρίς representing a Hellenised version of sine.

An objection to this translation of χωρίς, in connection to the Dediticiidediticii, has been voiced by Lukaszewicz, since he believes that such a wording would infer a complete denial of the continued existence of the Dediticiidediticii as a political class.39 This problem can easily be overcome, though, by removing the Dediticiidediticii from the equation altogether. In the years since the Papyrus Gissensisdiscovery of the constitutio text, there have been attempts made to reconstruct the text of the Giessen PapyrusGiessen papyrus without making any reference to the Dediticiidediticii.40 Unfortunately, however, the majority of these attempts were made long before the Papyrus Gissensisdiscovery of the Antonine tabula and, as a result, are almost entirely conjectural, often plagued by their own grammatical and palaeographical problems.41

If χωρίς is understood to mean ‘without’ rather than ‘except’, an attempt can to be made to assess whether the end of the ninth line of P. Giss. 40 is equivalent to the Latin sine diminutione tributorum et vectigalium populi et fisci found in the Tabula Banasitana.42 Instead of δηδειτικίων, it has been suggested that the lacuna might be better reconstructed as αδδειτικίων.43 Whilst admittedly a hapax legomenon in its own right, it is no more controversial than δηδειτικίων.

The adjectival noun, translating as ‘additional’, may be understood to make reference to the system of fiscal immunitas enjoyed historically by citizens under the earlier Principate. Kuhlmann disagrees that the χωρίς τῶν ἀδδειτικίων clause represents a direct transliteration of sine diminutione tributorum et vectigalium populi et fisci, however, doubting that it makes specific reference to fiscal immunity alone.44 He questions how far the sentiment from the Latin construction can be inferred from one word alone, arguing that if Oliver was correct in his assumption regarding the focus of additicia, then it must represent a hitherto unrecognised Greek terminus technicus.45

This conclusion would ultimately infer that the χωρίς clause found in the constitutio text was, in fact, a very general one designed to facilitate and overcome any short term problems that the CitizenshipRoman authorities might encounter in the aftermath of such a mass act of enfranchisement. While I agree with Kuhlmann that the precise text of the edict must be read in this general sense, among all of the innumerable benefits that the Giessen PapyrusGiessen papyrus might theoretically make reference to in the controversial clause, fiscal privileges were probably among the foremost concerns of both CaracallaCaracalla and his newly enfranchised populace.46 The sense of CaracallaCaracalla’s edict thus moves away from the idea of a grant in which a specific population group was forbidden access to the benefits of CitizenshipRoman civitas. Instead, the constitutio text can be interpreted as a more formulaic piece of legislation, one in which the newly enfranchised were simultaneously assured that their new legal status would not preclude their engagement with local customary law in the provinces, while being reminded that their enfranchisement would result in an obligation to pay taxes levied against the citizen population.

The revised wording obviously does not meld flawlessly with the Latin construction seen in the text of the Tabula Banasitana, but this is hardly surprising owing to the nature of the transliteration process from Latin into Greek.47 Until the Papyrus Gissensisdiscovery of other materials relating to the constitutio, students of this document must accept that linguistic questions and arguments will persist.48 The removal of the troublesome Dediticiidediticii from the wording of this document, however, would appear to fit more comfortably with the rest of the extant evidence, none of which makes any reference to a population group disbarred from CaracallaCaracalla’s otherwise universal edict.49

Line 10: Although far less controversial than the previous line, the appearance of νίκῃ in this line has prompted disagreement on what is being alluded to. Johnson disputed any notion that the ‘victory’ being referred to was in connection to the Getaassassination of GetaGeta in late 211. He advocated a theory linking it to the German campaign of 213, instead.50 Such a conclusion would, of course, have the resulting effect of questioning the date of the constitutio, inferring a promulgation date of 213 at the earliest, rather than the preceding year, as is most widely accepted. There is a further fundamental problem with Johnson’s hypothesis, however, in that he has attempted to assign a particular event to an area of the edict which is clearly rhetorical. The appearance of ‘victory’ in this line is incontrovertible, but this edition favours a more general interpretation, in keeping with the literary tone of the text, rather than referring to any episode specifically.

Lines 11–13: These lines have prompted little variation between the various scholars who reconstructed the papyrus. The general idea of a spread in the greatness or magnificence of the CitizenshipRomans is preserved through the Papyrus Gissensissurvival of µεγαλειότητα (µεγαλειότης = majesty) in line eleven and γεγενῆσθαι in line twelve. Line thirteen signals the beginning of the worst areas of damage to the papyrus, with significantly fewer characters surviving in this and subsequent lines when compared to those above. The Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction assigning the spread of greatness to a timeless CitizenshipRoman honour is accepted both by Wilhelm and Heichelheim.51

Lines 14–17: These lines are so damaged that only Heichelheim has attempted any significant Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction. In line fourteen, he continues the notion of the spread of RomeRome’s magnificence by suggesting that the decree stated that no one would be left stateless (ἀπολίτευτος) or dishonoured (ἀτίµητος). The latter would appear to be a fair Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction, fitting with the three extant letters in that section of the line, but lines 15–17 are based on so few surviving characters that, although interesting and eloquent solutions to the lacunae have been proposed, we are faced with the inescapable conclusion that we cannot be certain regarding the content of this line or any subsequent in the first column of P. Giss. 40.


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Giessen, University Library, P. Giss. 40 / P. Giss. inv. 15.

The Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction of lines 15–17 relies heavily on the edition of Heichelheim (1941) 10–22. Although his suggestions to fill the lacunae are undoubtedly eloquent, they are ultimately speculative, and are primarily included here in the interests of completeness.

Kuhlmann (1994) 1.

Kuhlmann (1994) 2.

Meyer (1910) 25; Kuhlmann (1994) 8–9.

P. Giss. 40, I.7 for example. Also see Kuhlmann (1994) 216.

Cavallo and Maehler (2008) 123.

Kuhlmann (1994) 215.

Kuhlmann (1994) 215–16, draws attention to these irregularities in more detail.

Cavallo & Maehler (2008) 131–2.

A search of the PHI Greek Inscription Database reveals that Εὐσεβής (= Pius) was a title used in relation to CaracallaCaracalla, usually positioned before Σεβαστός whenever the two titles were used together: see Apollonia Salbake 4 (= Robert, La Carie II. no.149), Magnesia 297 (= CIL III 13689) and Stratonikeia 91 (= IStratonikeia 811) for three such uses of the title. Also see Bureth (1964) 102–4. Kuhlmann (1994) 222–3, has suggested that this usage of the title may explain why Caracallan documents are often confused with those of Antoninus PiusAntoninus Pius. This confusion can be found even in late antiquity, when the edict was erroneously attributed to Antoninus PiusAntoninus Pius in Justinian’s Novellae (78.5) and to Marcus AureliusMarcus Aurelius by Aurelius VictorAurelius Victor (Caes. 16.12).

Schubart, (1940) 31–38.

Dio (77.3.1) employs the middle voice perfect participle of ἐπιβουλεύω: ὁ δ’ Ἀντωνῖνος καίπερ ἑσπέρας οὔσης τὰ στρατόπεδα κατέλαβε, διὰ πάσης τῆς ὁδοῦ κεκραγὼς ὡς ἐπιβεβουλευµένος καὶ κινδυνεύων (emphasis added).

Oliver (1989) 503.

For the adverbial use of µεγαλοπρεπής, see: Hdt. 6.128; Xen. Anab. 1.4.17.

It is true that one might expect the decree to avoid specifics, owing to the intended impression of grandeur that surrounded it, but this Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction is still, perhaps, a little overly complicated.

Dio 78.9.5; Oliver (1989) 503.

This Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction fits well with Ando’s claim that CaracallaCaracalla sought Consensusconsensus in religious worship. For more on the matter of Consensusconsensus, see Ando (2000) 73–276.

Oliver (1989) 504. Wolff has read the first letter of this word as a mu, consequently producing a different restoration. This would fit with his general thesis that P. Giss. 40 does not contain the text of the Constitutio AntoninianaConstitutio Antoniniana.

Honoré (2002) 24. Honoré claimed that UlpianUlpian would have advocated the extension of Citizenshipcitizenship affected by CaracallaCaracalla.

Dig. 1.5.17. Also see Ando (2016) 8.

Meyer (1910) 30–33.

Gaius, Inst. 1.14. This group is sometimes referred to as the peregrini Dediticiidediticii to distinguish them from a group of similar legal status found later, freedmen convicted of serious crimes during their time in slavery under the terms of the lex Aelia Sentia (see: Gaius, Inst., 1.13). For more on these groups, see Rocco (2010) 134, n.16; Wirth (1997) 32–34.

Weissert (1963) 239–50. This Papyrus Gissensisreconstruction has even been accepted in more recent years. For selected examples, see Moatti (2016) 90–92; Van Minnen (2016) 218–20; Rocco (2010) 134.

Dig. 1.5.17, see above n.3. Similarly, there is no mention of any exceptions to CaracallaCaracalla’s edict in the course of Dio’s hostile summary of the grant (Dio 78.9.5–6).

Unless, of course, the compilers of the Digest, JustinianicDigest later removed any mention of the Dediticiidediticii instead.

This hypothesis has been championed most famously by Sherwin-White (1973a) 380, but has also been taken up by Jones (1936) 223–235, and Préaux (1953) 218.

Lukaszewicz (1990) 97–99. Also see Kuhlmann (2012) 49.

Benario (1954) 188.

For more on Dio’s fierce hatred of CaracallaCaracalla, see: Millar (1964) 150. For further discussion of Dio’s assessment of the constitutio, see Chapter 2.

Lukaszewicz (1990) 96–98.

Lukaszewicz (1990) 95.

IAM 2.1, 94 = AE 1961, 142. For an annotated edition of the Tabula of Banasa, see: Oliver (1972) 336–40.

Oliver (1972) 338; Sherwin-White (1973b) 88.

IAM 2.1, 94. l.37.

Sherwin-White (1973b) 86–98.

Kuhlmann (2012) 47; see above for translation.

Sasse (1958) 48–58, has shown that the genitive participle µένοντος, found in the eighth line of P. Giss. 40, is relatively common in Greek legal texts, and that in at least forty-seven cases, the construction is identical to that of the Giessen PapyrusGiessen papyrus, with the participle employed in a genitive absolute construction. In this case, it can clearly be seen to mirror the Latin ablative absolute construction in the salvo clause of the Tabula Banasitana.

Lukaszewicz (1990) 98.

Lukaszewicz (1990) 98–99.

Böhm (1963) 278–355; Heichelheim (1941) 10–22; Laqueur (1927) 15–28.

For a detailed objection to some of the earlier attempts to remove the Dediticiidediticii from the text of the edict, see Lukaszewicz (1990) 99.

Wolff (1977) 99–102.

Kuhlmann (2012) 48–50; Oliver (1989) 504.

Kuhlmann (1994) 237. For examples of the term in the Latin corpus which Kuhlmann identifies, see Dig. and Tert. Resurr. 52.

Van Minnen (2016) 219; Kuhlmann (1994) 236–37.

This hypothesis is considered in greater detail in Chapter 2.

Oliver (1989) 500.

Lukaszewicz (1990) 98–101.

In addition to the contemporaneous legal evidence, the idea that the Constitutio AntoninianaConstitutio Antoniniana was an entirely universal one is maintained in later literature. Sidonius ApollinarisSidonius Apollinaris, for example, claimed that: ‘none but the barbarian and slave is foreign’ (Ep. 1.6.2).

Johnson (1961) 226, n.2. Also see Oliver (1989) 501. This hypothesis has been proven incorrect in recent years, see Van Minnen (2016).

Stroux follows a similar line, but employs notion of nobility (εὐγένεια) rather than honour.

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The Antonine Constitution

An Edict for the Caracallan Empire


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