Bronze diploma granting citizenship to Marcus Papirius


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

The bronze diploma comprises two inscribed sheets of bronze, which could be hung up for display. The inscription confirmed the formal discharge from the Egyptian fleet of Marcus Papirius of Arsinoe (Philadelphia) in the Fayum area of Egypt, after twenty-five years of service. Very importantly, it also bestowed on him Roman citizenship, the standard reward for this length of service. This had its rewards: protection under Roman law, voting rights, reductions in some taxes, and the legitimization of his marriage to Tapaia in the eyes of Roman law, thus granting her citizenship as well. He could also pass this on to his son Carpinius and future descendants. Rome required many thousands of men for its increasingly active army and navy. From the early days of the Empire, recruits from among citizens in Italy were not sufficient to meet demands. Recruits were drawn from the new imperial territories, such as the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean, encouraged by the promise of citizenship on completing service. In the later history of the Empire large numbers of mercenary soldiers were brought in from Germanic areas outside the Empire itself. Ultimately this had disastrous results, particularly for Italy and the Western Empire. The bureaucratic and precise nature of the wording allows the date of Papirius' diploma to be fixed as 8 September AD 79, less than a month after the eruption of Vesuvius which buried Pompeii, Herculaneum and other sites.

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  • Title: Bronze diploma granting citizenship to Marcus Papirius
  • Date Created: 79/79
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 19.00cm; Width: 16.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: 1923,0116.1
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Egypt
  • Period/culture: Roman
  • Material: bronze
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Nahman, Maurice