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The Pula Exile of Rasparaganus, King of the Sarmatian Roxolani

Robert Matijašić orcid id ; Filozofski fakultet Sveučilišta Jurja Dobrile u Puli, Pula Hrvatska

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str. 179-194

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Inscriptions on Two Sarcophagi at the Archaeological Museum of Istria
in Pula Mentioning the Sarmatian King Rasparaganus and his son Aelius Peregrinus:
1. P(ublio) Aelio Rasparagano / regi Roxo[la]noru[m] / [u(xor)] v(iva) [f(ecit)]
2. P(ublius) Aelius Peregrinus reg[is] / Sarmatarum Rasparagani / f(ilius) v(ivus)
f(ecit) sibi et Attiae Q(uinti) f(iliae) Procillae, lib(ertis) l[iber]/tabusq(ue) posterisq(ue)
The first inscription was discovered in the 17th century. It had a tumultuous
modern history: it was transferred to Koper, where it was seen by Theodor
Mommsen, then moved to Trieste by Pietro Kandler and back to Pula in the
1920s. Today, it consists of seven fragments, with only the first and the second
line of the inscription preserved. The second inscription is complete, though
broken into four parts. It was found in the mid-19th century on the island of
Uljanik in the port of Pula.
Kandler and Mommsen have recognized the Roxolan ethnic name and
linked it to a brief mention in the Historia Augusta (Hadr. 6, 6-8): The writer
of Hadrian’s biography does not mention the name of the king, but according
to the assumption of all modern historians who dealt with the Roxolani and
the Sarmatians in the 1st a nd t he 2 nd c enturies, t he k ing i n q uestion i s R asparaganus.
The Roxolani lived around the mouth of the Danube, and Trajan
reconciled them by paying a certain amount of money.
Strabo says the Roxolani are the farthest of all known Scythians, that they
live beyond the Boristenes River (Dnieper), that the Sarmatians around the
Maeotis Lake (Azov Sea) live southwards of them, and that the countries to
the north of the Roxolani are uninhabited due to the extreme cold (Strabo 2, 5,
7, 13). Later he asserts (7, 3, 17) that they are a part of a Sarmatian confederation
that further includes the Jazyges, the Urgi and the Royal Scythians, that
they are a nomadic people, and that they fought the Pontic King Mithridates
VI Eupator, who came to assist Chersonesus in Crimea, adding details on their
armament and way of life.
However, under the pressure of migrations from the east, parts of the
Scythian (Sarmatian) confederation headed west during the 1st century BC, so
the Roxolani ended up between the Carpathians and the Danube, neighbours
of the Thraco-Phrygian Dacians. As early as in the mid-1st century AD, they
began to occasionally cross the Danube into Moesia; they were defeated in
69 AD by the Romans (Tac. Hist., 1, 79), but in 92 AD they destroyed the XXI
legion. However, Trajan started the conquest of Dacia shortly afterwards, and
the Roxolani, allied to the Dacians, were again defeated in 101–102 AD. They
remained neutral in the second Dacian war, and the price of their neutrality
might have been a stipendium (an annual tribute) promised by Trajan.
The Sarmatians (Jazyges) and the Roxolani rebelled in 117 AD, shortly after
the news of Emperor Trajan’s death was received. Hadrian sent an army
against them, and he himself arrived in 118 AD (HA 6, 6-8). The reason for the
unrest was a reduction in the stipendium that Trajan had agreed to pay them
in exchange for peace. Hadrian personally negotiated with them, considered
their complaint, and made peace with them again. The terms of the agreement
are unknown (the text of HA does not explicitly say that Hadrian reinstated
the stipendium). However, some authors assume that Hadrian even agreed to
withdraw the Roman army from the eastern slopes of the Carpathians and
the left bank of the Danube. This is not supported by written sources, only by
archaeological data; hence, the assumption should be made with a reservation.
The withdrawal from the slopes of the Carpathians would significantly
weaken the security of Dacia, and the border with the legionary camps on the
Danube was established anyway. According to one possible interpretation, the
agreement had the added benefit for a Roxolan “king”, who would allegedly
have been declared amicus populi Romani and granted the Roman citizenship.
It is generally accepted that it was Rasparaganus from the Pula inscriptions.
It is not known for how long the treaty had remained in place, but the fact
that Rasparaganus’s name is found on two tombstones in Pula might indicate
that at some point after the year 118 AD, the king was forced to resign, and
that he sheltered in the territory of the Roman state. As a Roman citizen (if he
had indeed received the Roman citizenship by that time), he was entitled to
it, although in every respect he was a refugee, relocated into another culture.
Romanian scientists speculate that this possibly occurred at the beginning of
the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius (138 AD), when the scenario of 118 AD
might have been repeated: to force the extension of the agreement, perhaps
even at better terms, from the new emperor, the Roxolani rebelled again, but
as Rasparaganus was the guarantor of the existing agreement, he was expelled
from their community. We are closer to thinking that this happened soon after
118 AD. There are other, yet not many examples of similar situations in the
history of the Empire: The Suebian King Marobodus was resettled by Tiberius
in Ravenna, Catualdus soon after in Forum Julium (Frejus, Tac. 2, 62-63), but no
mention of citizenship has been made. Somewhat differently, Claudius offered
refuge to the Suevian Vanius, but he remained with his clients in Pannonia,
near the border (Tac. 12, 30).
If Hadrian had granted Rasparaganus citizenship, he must have performed
his royal duty in the interest of the Roman politics, which always closely monitored
the relations between the peoples who lived in the neighbourhood, as it
undoubtedly affected the security of the border area. Nevertheless, his departure
must have pleased both the Roxolani and the Jazyges, as there was no dramatic
news of conflicts in the following decades. We believe that it was only
after he had left his countrymen that he was granted the Roman citizenship,
and that he settled in Pula with only the most necessary entourage, perhaps
his wife and a few servants. His son does not carry a Roxolan cognomen, but
is a Peregrinus, which, as a general noun, is a designation of a person who is
free, but has no citizenship. However, his nomen gentile (as well as his father’s)
clearly indicates that they were both Roman citizens, and it should probably
be considered that it indeed was Hadrian himself who had allowed the grant.
Peregrinus may have been born after his father had already obtained citizenship,
probably in Pula (we cannot however be certain), as the father did
not give him a traditional Roxolan cognomen, but a general noun denoting
a foreigner. The inscription does not mention any descendants, but the grave
site was provided for all “their freedmen, the freedwomen and their descendants”.
In addition to the fact that the Rasparaganus case outlines the Roman
approach, a pattern of securing and maintaining peace in the border provinces,
the scarce information we dispose of about his son certainly contribute
to understanding the economic and civic success of an individual, the son of
a foreigner. The fate of Rasparaganus and his son Peregrinus is an example
illustrating both the horizontal and the vertical mobility of social structures
and, ultimately, the openness of the Roman society and its adaptability to conditions
that had naturally changed in the course of the centuries of the Empire.

Ključne riječi

ancient Istria; ancient Pula; Roxolani; Rasparaganus.

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