The Antonine Constitution

An Edict for the Caracallan Empire


In The Antonine Constitution, Alex Imrie approaches the famous edict of AD 212 from numerous angles, offering an assessment of its rationale that is rooted in the dynamic period of the early third century. Controversial since its discovery, it is depicted here as a keystone in Caracalla’s attempt to revolutionise the public image of the Severan dynasty after murdering his brother.

There is an inherent paradox between the apparently progressive nature of the edict, and the volatile emperor responsible for it. The enigma is only heightened by a dearth of ancient evidence relating to the legislation. By combining literary and material evidence with the surviving papyrological record, Alex Imrie shows that Caracalla’s rationale is best understood in an embedded context.

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Biographical Note

Alex Imrie, Ph.D. (2015), is a Tutor in Classics at the University of Edinburgh. He divides his time between teaching and outreach activities across Scotland. He has published articles on Caracalla and the Severan period. This is his first monograph.

Table of contents

List of Abbreviations
List of Figures, Table and Illustration

 The Antonine Constitution in Scholarship
 An Edict for the Caracallan Empire

1 Contexts
 The Historical Context: 193–212
 The Antonine Constitution in Ancient Literature
 The Role of the Jurists
 The Antonine Constitution and the Giessen Papyrus

2 The Fiscal Rationale
 Early Imperial Economic Activity
 Decline and Crisis in the High Empire
 The Severan Recovery
 The Economy under Caracalla
 The Economic Function of the Antonine Constitution
 The Vicesima Hereditatum
 The Purpose of Caracallan Fiscal Innovation

3 The Military Rationale
 Obstacles to Legionary Recruitment
 The Severan Reforms
 The Military Application of the Antonine Constitution

4 Alexander Imitatio
 Alexandrian Influences in the Antonine Constitution
 Alexander Iconography in the Caracallan Empire
 The Political Significance of Alexander Iconography

5 Securing the Caracallan Empire
 The Drive for Aequitas
 Re-writing the Severan Past
 A Religious Offering
 The Indulgentissimus Princeps
 A Social Contract


 Text, Translation and Commentary of the Giessen Papyrus


All interested in the history of the Severan period and the Roman Empire, more generally, and anyone interested in the spread of citizenship under Rome.

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