The Honorific Arch
Imp(eratore) C[aes(are) M(arco)] Aurelio Antonino Aug(usto) p(atre) p(atriae) et Imp(eratore) Caes(are) L(ucio) Aurelio Vero Armeniaco Aug(usto) / Ser(vius) Co[rnelius Scipio Salvidienus] Orfitus proco(n)s(ul) cum Uttedio Marcello leg(ato) suo dedicavit / C(aius) Calpurnius Celsus curator muneris pub(lici) munerarius IIvir q(uin)q(uennalis) flamen perpetuus / arcum pecunia sua [solo publ]ico et fund[avit et] marmore solido fecit
To Emperor Caesar [Marcus] Aurelius Antoninus Augustus, Father of the Country, and Emperor Caesar Lucius Aurelius Verus, Victor in Armenia, Augustus; Servius Cornelius [Scipio Salvidienus] Orfitus, proconsul, with Uttedius Marcellus, his legate ( senatorial assistant), dedicated [this], Caius Calpurnius Celsus, curator of public business, giver of a public show, duovir in a fifth year, perpetual flamen [priest] built the arch at his own expense on public [land] and completed it with solid marble.
EDH dates this honorific inscription and arch to 163, but it is more likely 164-165. The sole military title “Armeniacus” is used, suggesting that this was erected before 166, after which the honorer would have included “Parthicus Maximus” among others. Furthermore, this arch of solid marble would have been a lavish expense, more likely funded for the first of Marcus Aurelius’ victories. Perhaps the dedicators Servius Cornelius Orfitus and his legate Uttedius Marcellus along with the patron Caius Calpurnius Celsus wanted to thank the emperor for what could have been an influx of wealth and imperial funding after the capturing of Armenian spoils.
The “Bravest” Father of the Fatherland
[Imp(eratori) Caes(ari) M(arco) Aurelio] / [Antonino Aug(usto)] / [Germ(anico) Sarm(atico) pont(ifici) max(imo)] / [trib(unicia) pote]st(ate) XXX imp(eratori) VI[—] / [co(n)s(uli) I]II p(atri) p(atriae) fortissimo / [libe]ralissimoq(ue) / [pri]ncipi dedicante / [A(ulo) I]ulio Pisone / [le]g(ato) Aug(usti) pro pr(aetore) / [centuriones et] veterani [[leg(ionis) III]] Aug(ustae) / [qui] militare coeperunt / [Glab]rione et Homullo / [et Praesente et Rufino] / [co(n)s(ulibus)]
Elaborate and ornate epithets occasionally accompany the names of epigraphical honorees, but this one in particular attributed to Marcus Aurelius’ personage far surpasses precedent. Roman veterans and centurions call him liberalissimus, “most generous”, presumably for the lavish rewards he bestowed on them. He is also named pater patriae fortissimus, “bravest father of the nation”, an accolade that eclipses Augustus himself, the first pater patriae.
This inscription must date to 175, as it indicates Marcus’ 30th time receiving tribunicia potestas and imp for at least the 6th time but the indication of Sarmaticus narrows the date to 175 when he receives his 8th imp title. Perhaps these soldiers honoring of the emperor coincides with his lucrative conquering of the Sarmatians, possibly bestowing spolia upon the dedicators.