Hadrian, 117-138. Military Diploma (Bronze, 48x53 mm, 19.42 g, 3 h), awarded to Malchio ..., with his wife Memmedabus and his son Titus. Early years of Hadrian, circa 119-120s AD. Unpublished and of great historical interest. Fragmentary, otherwise, extremely fine.
From a European collection, formed before 2005.
[IMP CAESAR DIVI TRAIANI PART]HICI F DIVI NER
[VAE NEPOS TRAIANVS HADRI]ANVS AVG PONT
[MAX TRIBVNIC POTESTAT...]III COS III
[...] ALA GEMINA
[SEBASTENORVM ET SVNT IN M]AVRETANIA
CVM IIS QVAS [POSTEA DVXISSENT DVM TA]
ET•TITO F EIVS[...]
DESCRIPTVM ET R[ECOGNITVM EX TABVLA AENEA]
QVAE FIXA EST R[OMAE IN MVRO POST TEM]
PLVM•DIVI [AVG AD MINERVAM]
Unfortunately, the exact dating of this highly interesting military diploma is uncertain, as Hadrian's TR P is only recorded fragmentarily, and he only held three consulships in his career, the last of which was in 119. However, it is clear from the remaining text that the diploma was awarded to the soldier Malchio ..., who served in the ala Gemina Sebastenorum. This ala was stationed in Syria in the late 80s and early 90s, but inscriptions attest her presence in Mauretania Caesariensis, where she is last attested in 255-258 (CIL 8, 21000). With the emergence of our diploma, her redeployment from Syria to Africa can now be dated to no later than the reign of Hadrian.
Furthermore, the diploma also records the name of one of two Roman suffect consuls (the name of the second has broken off), namely C. Velius Rufus. This is a familiar name, for a certain C. Velius Salvi filius Rufus was a highly decorated officer whose career we know from an inscription on the base of a statue found in Heliopolis. Serving as a centurion in the Jewish War, C. Velius Rufus rose through the ranks quickly under the Flavians, becoming primus pilus of the Legio XII Fulminata in 82, commanding 9 vexillations in the Chattan War in 83, receiving several decorations for his campaigns across the Danube and in Dacia against Germans and Sarmatians and serving in two subsequent procuratorships in the early 90s. However, it seems unlikely that this C. Velius Rufus was still active in politics, or even alive, early in Hadrian's reign, and thus the suffect consul from our military diploma must be a descendant, likely his son.
As for the name of the soldier, it is worth noting that Malchio is a semitic name, but that the name of his son Titus is clearly Roman. It seems likely that Malchio named his son in honor of the emperor Titus, the conqueror of Jerusalem. Last but not least, the third name, Memmedabus, appears to be a variant of Emmedabous or `Immeh-de-`abû (-ha) (literally: 'mother of his father'), a name attested in Palmyra, Dura and Central Syria, both in Greek and in Aramaic. Although it is occasionally encountered as a male name, in the case of our diploma, Memmedabus was clearly Malchio's wife and Titus' mother. We can deduce from this that she was in all probability of Syrian origin, whereas Malchio himself may have also been Syrian, or perhaps Punic. Thus, the diploma is a beautiful testimony to the multiethnicity of the Roman army, which served as a melting pot for soldiers and their families from various cultural backgrounds, eventually merging them as citizens of Rome.