Military diploma

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Military diploma from the Carnuntinum Museum

In modern research, a military diploma is a document that confirms to auxiliary soldiers and members of other branches of arms in the Roman Empire that they had been granted Roman citizenship and / or the right to marry. As a rule, this was done on honorable discharge after the usually 25 years of service; Fleet soldiers served for 26 or 27 years (often longer). The document is a certified copy of the edict originally published in the capital Rome. The term “military diploma” is actually misleading, but is still used generally in ancient historical research.

Content and occurrence

A military diploma consisted of two bronze tablets connected to one another in the form of a diptych , which contained two identical copies of an imperial edict (constitutio) on the outside and inside , which had been announced in Rome by public notice. The diplomas were drawn up and sealed in Rome. It is possible that only those soldiers who paid specifically for it received a bronze diploma; in times of crisis (such as during the Marcomannic Wars under Marcus Aurelius ), metal copies seem to have been completely dispensed with. If the suspicion arose that the text on the outside had been manipulated, it could be compared with the text on the inside after the seal was broken. According to Roman law, the inside text was the actual certified copy.

In the certificate, the respective emperor granted a named soldier the right of citizenship and / or the one-time right to a legally valid marriage (the conubium ), because until the time of the Severans soldiers were not officially allowed to marry, but only had tolerated partners (→ concubine ) . Often several soldiers were recipients of the same diploma, sometimes even entire units. The award initially also extended to possible children, who were often mentioned by name before the year 140. Before 140 - if there was one - the woman was also named on the diploma, but she was not granted citizenship. After 140, the legal practice seems to have changed and families were only mentioned in exceptional cases, e.g. B. if the soldier was married or had children before starting his military service. Since then, citizenship has usually not been granted to those children of the soldier who were born before his release.

In addition to auxiliary soldiers, there were military diplomas for members of the Roman fleet as well as for the Praetorians and the Cohortes urbanae (both of whom only received the conubium because they already had citizenship), and also for special troops such as the Equites singulares recruited from the auxiliaries , not against for soldiers of a legion , as they had to have Roman citizenship prior to being recruited. A few years after the Civil War in the Year of the Four Emperors 68-69 However, there were diplomas for the Legio I Adiutrix under Galba and the Legio II Adiutrix under Vespasian . The assumption here is that these legions were initially recruited from non-citizens (probably fleet soldiers) who were then naturalized retrospectively. There are currently more than 900 military diplomas from the period between the reign of Emperor Claudius (41–54 AD) and the beginning of the 4th century. However, since around 210 no additional diplomas have been taken; this is possibly in connection with the granting of citizenship to all free imperial residents by Emperor Caracalla in 212 ( Constitutio Antoniniana ) .

Very valuable for historical research is the listing of all troop units in a province in which the soldiers who were granted citizenship were stationed, as well as the names of the current governor, the two consuls and the commander of the discharging unit. Seven witnesses are also listed who authenticated the copy in Rome. Diplomas are dated to the exact day and can therefore provide important information on chronology (reigns and titles of emperors, dating of governors) and on social and military history. In the meantime, the number of known diplomas is also large enough to make cautious statistical statements: For example, the relative accumulation of diplomas that were issued around 92 or 158 indicates particularly extensive new recruits, each made 25 years earlier - in the two cases mentioned, a connection with the two Jewish wars (66–73 and 132–135) is obvious. The imperial army had to make up for losses at the time, and the newly hired auxiliary and naval soldiers were then discharged 25 years later.

See also as an example of a military diploma: Military diploma for the Centurio Plator .

End of military diplomas

In 1930 a bronze plaque was recovered in the Pannonian legionary camp Brigetio containing a decree of the emperors Constantine (306–337) and Licinius (308–324) of June 9, 311. There is no consensus among experts on the interpretation of the text. The archaeologist Rudolf Egger (1882–1969) saw this as the end of the previous military diplomas, while the ancient historian Konrad Kraft (1920–1970) only saw a change in the previous mode of issuing immunity confirmations.

Research and Publication

Diplomas are counted among the inscriptions , their research therefore falls within the area of ​​Latin epigraphy (as a special discipline within ancient historical research). The few examples known up to around 1955 are collected in Volume XVI of the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL); the diplomas published since the late 1950s have been collected in the five volumes of the Roman Military Diplomas (RMD) by Margaret M. Roxan and Paul A. Holder ; In addition, there are publications in specialist journals such as Chiron or the Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik (ZPE). Most of the known military diplomas come from the Balkan provinces of the empire, which were the most important recruiting area for the Roman army during the high imperial era.

Many diplomas (or fragments) end up in the art trade without being scientifically processed. The number of known diplomas and diploma fragments has risen sharply, especially since the 1980s, which is mainly due to the widespread use of metal detectors that are used by private treasure hunters or robber graves . Military diplomas found are archaeological finds that must be reported to the responsible monument protection authorities and must be scientifically documented and recovered by them. The concealment of a find remains a violation of the treasure shelf , where it exists, and a criminal offense that cannot be remedied even by an anonymous publication, for example via "Roman Military Diplomas On-Line" (see web links). In the meantime, some fake diplomas have also surfaced, but so far these have been isolated cases.


  • Herbert Nesselhauf : Diplomata militaria ex constitutionibus imperatorum de civitate et conubio militum veteranorumque expressa (= Corpus inscriptionum Latinarum Volume XVI). de Gruyter, Berlin 1936, and Supplementum , de Gruyter, Berlin 1955.
  • Margaret M. Roxan (Volumes 1-4), Paul A. Holder (Volumes 4-5): Roman Military Diplomas (RMD). 5 volumes, Institute of Classical Studies, London 1978–2006.
  • Werner Eck , Hartmut Wolff (ed.): Army and integration policy. The Roman military diplomas as a historical source (= Passau historical research. Volume 2). Böhlau, Cologne [a. a.] 1986, ISBN 3-412-06686-9 .
  • Werner Eck: The emperor as lord of the army. Military diplomas and imperial government . In: John J. Wilkes (Ed.): Documenting the Roman Army. Essays in Honor of Margaret Roxan (= Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies. Supplement 81). Institute of Classical Studies, London 2003, ISBN 0-900587-92-X , pp. 55-87.
  • Nicole Lambert, Jörg Scheuerbrandt : The military diploma. Source on the Roman army and documents (= documents from the Limes Museum Aalen. Volume 55). Theiss, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-8062-1726-2 .
  • Barbara Pferdehirt : The role of the military for social advancement in the Roman Empire (= monographs of the Roman-Germanic Central Museum Mainz. Volume 49). Habelt, Bonn 2002, ISBN 3-88467-069-7 .
  • Barbara Pferdehirt: Roman military diplomas and certificates of discharge in the collection of the Roman-Germanic Central Museum (= catalogs of prehistoric antiquities. Volume 37). 2 volumes, Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Mainz 2004, ISBN 3-88467-086-7 .
  • Nicole Scheuerbrandt: Imperial Constitutions and their certified copies. Diplomatics and files for military diplomas (= Roman provincial studies. Volume 2). Greiner, Remshalden 2009, ISBN 978-3-86705-019-7 .
  • Michael Alexander Speidel et al. (Ed.): Military diplomas: the research contributions of the Bern talks of 2004 . Steiner, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-515-09144-2 .

Web links

Commons : Military Diplomas  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ András Graf: Overview of the ancient geography of Pannonia. Hungarian National Museum, Budapest 1936, p. 91 (Dissertationes Pannonicae I 5).
  2. ^ András Graf: Overview of the ancient geography of Pannonia (= Dissertationes Pannonicae. I 5). Budapest 1936, p. 91. Konrad Kraft : Brigetio's tablet and the cessation of military diplomas. In: Germania. 28, 1944-1950, pp. 242-250; here: p. 250. Reprint in: ders .: Collected essays on ancient history and military history. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1973, pp. 152–160.
  3. AE 1937, 6 .