Key to Umbria: Foligno

                                                         CIL XI 5621                                                 AE 1991, 646

The presence of octoviri at Plestia is known from two funerary inscriptions that were recorded in the church of Santa Maria di Plestia, both of which are now in the Museo Archeologico di Colfiorito:

  1. CIL XI 5621 commemorates Titus Liconius, the son of Titus Liconius Serapione and Arnila Secunda, who is recorded as:

  2. T(ito) Liconio T(iti) f(ilio) Ouf(entina) VIIIvir(o)

  3. Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2007, at p. 143, citing Eugen Bormann, CIL XI p. 812) dated the inscription to the early Augustan period (i.e. ca. 27 BC).   (The EDR database - see the CIL link - gives a much later date, but I wonder if that is a mistake).   This is also the earliest known reference to the tribal assignation of Plestia to the Oufentina tribe (discussed above).  

  4. AE 1991, 646 commemorates:

  5. M(arcus) Annio, T(iti) l(iberto)/ VIIIvir(o) ch...

  6. The dating of this inscription is uncertain:

  7. Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2007, at p. 143) dated it to the Republican period (i.e. before 27 BC);

  8. the EDR database (see the AE link) dated it to the period 30 BC - 30 AD; and

  9. the museum similarly dated to the late 1st century BC or early 1st century AD.

Magisterial or Non-Magisterial Office ?

Tribal assignations of the centres mentioned below

Blue = Oufentina; Brown = Velina;  Red = Quirina;  Green = Sergia

Both the Velina and the  Papiria are found at Castrum Novum: I think that the former is more likely

Both the Sergia and the Quirina are found at Trebula Mutuesca

Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire 

Titus Liconius, the octovir commemorated in CIL XI 5621, was freeborn (as evidenced by his filiation), but the possibility that he was the son of a freedman arises because of his father’s non-Latin cognomen, ‘Serapione’ .  Marcus Annius, the octovir commemorated in AE 1991, 646, was explicitly designated as a freedman.  This second inscription was first published by Luigi Sensi (referenced below), who observed (at p. 457) that, before its publication:

  1. “Some [scholars] considered that the presence of an octovir at Plestia [as evidenced by CIL XI 5621] indicated its late municipalisation, in imitation of the situation in the nearby territory of the Sabines and, in particular, of Nursia [modern Norcia], with which Plestia might have shared a border.  Others have suggested that this octovirate was a type of priestly institution.  The new inscription seems to confirm the second possibility: a freedman [such as Marcus Annius] was not allowed to act as a municipal magistrate but could belong to a college of priests” (my translation).

The distinction that Sensi is making here is essentially that between magisterial and non-magisterial office:

  1. As we shall see, Nursia and some of its Sabine neighbours were administered by octoviri during the late Republic and early Empire.  There is no doubt that these were magisterial octoviri (i.e. they were selected from the members of the local senate).  With one possible exception, these Sabine magisterial octoviri were all free born. 

  2. As we shall also see that, at Falerio and Firmum in Picenum (for example), we find octoviri and octoviri Augustales.  Where the status of the men who belonged to these colleges are known, they were freedmen.   The office held by the octoviri Augustales were certainly non-magisterial, and it is entirely possible that this was also true for the octoviri.  In the quote above, Luigi Sensi implied that octovirates of this kind were generally ‘priestly institutions’: however, as Margaret Laird (referenced below, at p. 8) observed in the context of the ubiquitous non-magisterial colleges known as Augustales, seviri Augustales or seviri, the men who belonged to such colleges:

  3. “... should not be considered [to be either] official magistrates or priests: ... [they were rather] men whose wealth ... guaranteed them prominence in their [municipia]. ... Their status [was] between [that of] the decurions [members of the municipal administrative council] and the ordinary [people of the municipium] ...”

  4. Colleges of this kind were also not necessarily ‘Augustales’, as evidenced, for example, by the novemviri Valetudinis at Mevania (modern Bevagna) in Umbria.  Although freedmen predominated in such colleges, they were open to men who were freeborn.

For Luigi Sensi (above) and, for example,  Maria Romana Picuti (referenced below, at pp. 47-8) believed that the evidence of AE 1991, 646 precluded the possibility that Marcus Annius belonged to a magisterial octovirate at Plestia, and thus made it likely that the octovirate at Plestia was of the non-magisterial type.  However, as we shall see, the apparent ban on freedmen acting as civic magistrates was perhaps not quite as absolute as Luigi Sensi suggested.  For example, Amanda Coles (referenced below) identified a small number of places in Italy where this ‘rule’ was possibly ignored.  She observed that:

  1. “The [octovirates of the towns] of:

  2. Falerio and Firmum in Picenum;

  3. Ameria and [Plestia] in Umbria, [although she mistakenly assigned AE 1991, 646 to Fulginae - see her entry I:21 at p. 205]; and

  4. Trebula Mutuesca in Sabinum;

  5. boasted freedmen ... There is [still a] debate as to whether this office, when held by freedmen, is a [magisterial] magistracy or an extension of the Augustales.”

In other words, despite the evidence of AE 1991, 646, some  scholars continue to believe that the octoviri at Plestia in the late 1st century BC and early 1st century AD were (or were possibly) magisterial octoviri, like those in the alta Sabina.  For example, Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2007, at p. 143) asserted that the two inscriptions above indicate: 

  1. “... the original municipal constitution of Plestia, which only subsequently came into line with that of neighbouring municipia with the introduction of the quattuorvirate [as evidenced by CIL XI 5619, discussed on the following page] ” (my translation).

In order to explore this further, we need to look at the precedents: from the territory of the Sabines; from Picenum; and from elsewhere in Umbria.

Octovirates in the Territory of the Sabines

Reate, Nursia and Amiternum

According to Festus (‘De verborum significationeione’, 262 Lindsay), who was probably characterising the situation before the Social War, a number of places in Italy were constituted as praefecturae: in other words, they received prefects from Rome who administered the legal affairs of the Roman citizens who lived in the centres themselves and those settled in their surrounding territories.  Festus non-inclusive list of praefecturae included two in the alta Sabina: at Reate and Nursia.  Furthermore, two inscriptions (AE 1984, 279 and AE 1992, 392) from Amiternum, the third important centre of the region, which Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2010, at p. 199) dated to the middle of the 1st century BC, recorded the existence of a praefectura Amertinina.

Festus tells us nothing about origins of the praefecturae, although was can safely assume that they were constituted in order to provide a coherent means of attending to the legal affairs of Roman citizens who were settled some distance from Rome.  Such settlement first occurred in the alta Sabina in the aftermath of the conquest of 290 BC, when, according to Florus, an army under the consul:

  1. “... Manius Curius Dentatus ... laid waste with fire and sword to all the tract of country that is enclosed by the Nar, the Anio and the sources of the Velinus, and bounded by the Adriatic Sea.  By this conquest, so large a population and so vast a territory was reduced, that even [Curius] could not tell which was of greater importance”, (‘Epitome of Roman History’, 1: 10).

According to Velleius Paterculus (‘History of Rome’, 1: 14: 6-7):

  1. “... the citizenship without the right of suffrage was given to the Sabines in the consulship of Manius Curius and Rufinus Cornelius [i.e. in 290 BC].”

  2. “[Subsequently, in 268 BC,] the right of suffrage was granted to the Sabines.”

Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2013, at p. 10) observed that:

  1. “... it is very likely that the ‘Sabines’ to whom Velleius alluded are ... effectively those of the Sabina tiberina [around Cures]...” (my translation);

and suggested that this was because they represented:

  1. ... the only part of the local population that survived (fiscally and legally) the massacre and enslavement ... [of] 290 BC” (my translation). 

The Sergia, one of the original 17 rural voting tribes, is attested at both Cures  and at nearby Trebula Mutuesca: we might reasonably assume that this extension of the tribe took place in 268 BC to include the newly-enfranchised ‘Sabines’ and any Romans who had settled in their territory. 

Thus, in Sisani’s view, there were probably very few native Sabines to be found in the alta Sabina in 268 BC.  Nevertheless, a new tribe, the Quirina, was established in 241 BC specifically for the alta Sabina and the adjacent territory of the Vestini.  This must indicate that there was a significant level of viritane citizen settlement here by that time.  It seems likely these were the circumstances that created the need for the services of the prefects from Rome who operated from Reate, Nursia and Amiternum.   Indeed, it is possible that these three places were constituted as praefecturae in 241 BC.  (I have seen this suggestion attributed to Maria Carla Spadoni, referenced below, at pp. 63-7, but have not been able to consult her work directly.) 

Epigraphic evidence suggests that that praefecturae at Reate and Amiternum continued for over a century after thee Social War:

  1. an inscription (CIL IX 4677) from the period 23-18 BC commemorated Marcus Agrippa as the patron of the praefectura Reatinae; and

  2. an inscription (CIL IX 4182) of 19 BC recorded an octovir (Titus Titsienus) and an aedile of the praefectura Amiternina.  

There is no surviving evidence, apart from Festus, for the praefectura at Nursia, but it seems likely that Nursia also retained this status at least until this point in time. 

According to Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2010, at p. 199), four surviving inscriptions  inscriptions that recorded individual octoviri at Amiternum and Nursia in the period in which Amiternum was and Nursia probably was  a praefectura:

  1. from Amiternum:

  2. CIL IX 4398: C. Oviolenus P. [f]/ Quirina oct(o)vir;

  3. CIL IX 4400:  ....f(ilius)/ [... o]ct(o)vir; and

  4. a fragmentary inscription published by Simonetta Segenni (referenced below, at p. 722): L. Anch[arius - f. Quir( ina)]/ Ru  ... /oct(o)[vir]; and

  5. from Nursia:

  6. AE 1983, 308: Q. Octavius ...., VIIIvir II. 

Since two of the octoviri at Amiternum belonged to the Quirina, we might reasonably assume that the men who held this office were generally local.  Furthermore, since Quintus Octavius served as an octovir at Norcia on two occasions, we might reasonably assume that this was an annual appointment.  Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2013, at p. 113,) argued that, since there is no epigraphic evidence to suggest that any of the Sabine praefecturae had octoviri before the 1st century BC, it is likely that this magistracy was introduced:

  1. “... only after the Social War, as a form of rationalisation of the local magistracies in those areas that remained constituted as praefecturae” (my translation).  

Thus, assuming that Sisani’s dating of the relevant inscriptions is broadly correct, the octovirate at both Amiternum and at Nursia was a pre-municipal local magistracy that probably operated for a century or more after the Social War.  Sisani pointed out (at p. 200) that:

  1. “No octovir was ever recorded as having judicial power” (my translation).

It seems that, in this period, the octoviri at Amiternum and Nursia attended to the non-legal aspects of local government while the Roman prefect, retained judicial power.  Although we have no evidence for a comparable octovirate at the praefectura at Reate, it is reasonable to assume that, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, the same administrative structure was established there.

As noted above the surviving epigraphic record of praefecturae in the alta Sabina ends in ca. 18 BC.  Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2013, at p. 114) suggested that the practice of sending prefects from Rome ceased at about this time, giving way to the alternative practice of:

  1. “... supplementing the [octovirate] with [another] local magistrate with judicial power [i.e. the praefectus iure dicundo], who replaced the Roman prefect ...” (my translation).

He noted that the presence of praefecti iure dicundo was first evidenced in the early imperial period:

  1. at Nursia, where Q. Aufidius Iustus served as haruspex; octovir and praefectus iure dicundo (CIL IX 4622); and

  2. at Amiternum, where P. Lucceius Clemans, a local man (as evidenced by his assignation to the Quirina), served as aedile and praefectus iure dicundo (CIL IX 4270 - see Sisani, 2010, at p. 201 for details of this inscription).

He therefore concluded that these centres had been ‘promoted’ from praefecturae to municipia in the late 1st century BC. 

It seems that the octovirates at Amiternum and Nursia continued after municipalisation, albeit with increasing differentiation in the functions of its component magistrates:

  1. Simon Sisani (referenced below, 2010, at pp. 199-204) recorded a significant number of inscriptions that attested to this at Amiternum.  He suggested (at pp. 202-3) that this structural evolution culminated in:

  2. “ ... a normal duoviral college, which was canonical for municipia that had been constituted in the Caesarian period” (my translation).

  3. He cited as evidence an inscription (AE 1983, 326) from Amiternum that he dated to the middle of the 1st century AD, which commemorated the duoviri Proculeius Galba and Proculeius Basilus.  

  4. He recorded (at pp. 205-7) a similar development at Nursia that culminated in an octovirate in which the two senior magistrates were a pair of octoviri duovirali potestate (octoviri with the powers of duoviri).   He suggested (at p. 206) that the earliest of the relevant inscriptions dated to the early 1st century AD: it commemorated:

  5. Numisio f(ilio) Qu]ir(ina) Secun[din]o

  6. VIIIvir IIvir(ali)] pot(estate) q(uin)q(uennali) [II], [p]raef(ecto) Nur(siae)

  7. He suggested that the cursus was in descending order, and that this local magistrate had first served as the prefect responsible for judicial matters before twice assuming the same responsibility as octovir duovirali potestate quinquennalis.

The situation at Reate after municipalisation is uncertain:

  1. although the last surviving evidence for a praefectura at Reate (CIL IX 4677) dates to the period 23-18 BC, there is no surviving evidence for its municipalisation before the late 1st century AD; and

  2. from this point, Reate was certainly a municipium administered by quattuorviri, as evidenced by two inscriptions: CIL IX 4754 (late 1st century AD); and CIL IX 4753 (2nd century AD).

In summary, there is no doubt that the octovirates documented at the praefecturae of Amiternum and Nursia in the 1st century BC were civic magistracies.  After municipalisation, probably in the late 1st century BC, the octovirate continued in a form that evolved into:

  1. a canonical duovirate ar Amiternum; and

  2. a somewhat unconventional duovirate at Nursia.

It is entirely possible that the octovirate existed at the praefectura of Reate, albeit that there is no surviving evidence for or against this hypothesis.   However, there is no evidence to indicate when Reate was municipalised: all we know is that it was a municipium administered by quattuorviri by the late 1st century BC. 

Trebula Mutuseca

Trebula Mutuesca was a small centre on the border of the alta Sabina and Sabina tiburina.  This is probably the ‘Trebula’ to which Strabo referred in the following passage:

  1. “The country of the Sabines ... [has] but few cities, and even these have been brought low on account of the continual wars; they are Amiternum, and Reate [in the alta Sabina] ... As for Cures [the main centre of Sabina tiberina], it is now only a small village, but it was once a city of significance, since it was the original home of two kings of Rome, Titius Tatius and Numa Pompilius ... Trebula ... and other such settlements might be ranked as villages rather than cities” (‘Geography’, 5: 3: 1).

Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2010, at pp. 193-9) listed a significant number of inscriptions that collectively recorded an octovirate here from the Augustan period until at least the 2nd century AD.  He suggested (at pp. 198-9) that the vicus described by Strabo had been municipalised in the Augustan period, and that this octovirate had been:

  1. “... a relic from the pre-municipal period” (my translation).

In other words, it is possible that it represented the continuation of a magistracy that had existed at Trebula Mutuesca since the Social War.  (If so, this might suggest that this centre had been the seat of a Roman prefect before its municipalisation, although it might alternatively have been under the jurisdiction of a prefect who operated from nearby Reate.)

Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2010, at pp. 194-6) listed a subset of the inscriptions above that he dated (at p. to 196) to the period 27 BC - 50 AD.  One of these, CIL IX 4897, commemorated (inter alia):

  1. Caius Plaetorius Lupercus, freedman of Caius, octovir

Sisani obviously assumed that Plaetorius was a magisterial octovir, despite his status as a freedman.  Amanda Coles (referenced below, at p. 194), who analysed the evidence for freedmen in civic magistracies at a small number of places in Italy, observed that:

  1. “The [other]  libertini magistrates [identified in her paper] allow a fresh examination of the octoviri in Ameria, [Plestia] and Trebula Mutuesca, which need not be dismissed as a [non-magisterial] office merely because freedmen held it.”

However, CIL IX 4897 also recorded (inter alia):

  1. Caius Plaetorius Phaedimus, freedman of Florus, sevir Augustalis; and

  2. two Augustales:

  3. Caius Papirius Severus, son of Caius (who was the only one of the ten men mentioned in the inscription who was certainly free born); and

  4. Caius Annius Alcimus (who was probably a freedman, like the other Alcimus recorded in the inscription, who is so-described).

These three men all held non-magisterial office.  It seems to me that, given this context, the balance of probabilities suggests that the freedman Caius Plaetorius Lupercus was a non-magisterial octovir of some kind.

In short, the octovirate at Trebula Mutueseca was clearly magisterial, like those at Nursia and Amiternum.  However, in my opinion, the evidence of CIL IX 4897 cannot be used to demonstrate that freedmen could hold office in magistracies of this type, since the nature of the octovirate in this particular inscription is uncertain.

Evidence from Falerio and Firmum in Picenum

Amanda Coles (referenced below) discussed the extensive epigraphic evidence for octoviri at Falerio and nearby Firmum:

  1. At Falerio:

  2. four inscriptions record octoviri Augustales who were, or whose names suggest that they were, freedmen:

  3. -CIL IX 5446: Caius Fuficius Genialis, freedman, octovir Augustalis Firmi et Falerione;

  4. -CIL IX 5422: Caius Servilius Aper, octovir Augustalis;

  5. -CIL IX 5448: Iulius Eros, octovir Augustalis; and

  6. -AE 1922, 89 (not in Coles’ list): Marcus Allius Agenor, freedman, octovir Augustalis; and

  7. two inscriptions record octoviri :

  8. -CIL IX 5451: Caius Valerius Onesimus, freedman, VIIIvir Falerione; and

  9. -CIL IX 5447: Caius Helvius Agens (whose status is unknown), octovir.

  10. Although CIL IX 5446 (above) indicates a college of octovir Augustalis at Firmum as well as at Falerio, only octoviri are actually recorded at Firmum, in five inscriptions:

  11. one was designated as a freedman:

  12. -CIL IX 5367: Titus Accaeus Philadelphus, freedman, octovir; and

  13. the status of four octoviri is unknown:

  14. -CIL IX 5371: Caius Calpurniu[s] Celladus, octovir bis;

  15. -CIL IX 5372: Quintus Laetorius Lucrio, octovir by decree of the decurions;

  16. -CIL IX 5373: Publius Optatus, octovir; and

  17. -CIL IX 5374: Marcus Septimius Anteros, octovir Firmi.

It is often assumed that the titles ‘octoviri’ and ‘octoviri Augustales’ were interchangeable.  However, Henrik Mouritsen (referenced below, at p. 239) pointed out that, for example:

  1. “The ... titles Augustales, sevir Augustalis and sevir could ... coexist as independent offices alongside each other ...; [for example,] at Ariminum, L. Vicrius Cypaerus was both sevir and sevir Augustales ...”

In view of this, it is possible that there were separate colleges of octoviri and octoviri Augustales at both Falerio and Firmum.  Amanda Coles concluded (at p. 194), for example, was of this opinion: she observed that:

  1. “... in these two locations in Picenum, there is no way to prove or disprove that there were separate [magisterial and non-magisterial] octovirates.”

The octoviri Augustales were clearly non- magisterial: however, in her view, the possibility of a separate and possibly magisterial college of octoviri at each centre could not be ruled out.  However, Firmum was an ex-Latin colony and, as such, was most unlikely to have ever had magisterial octoviri, and the non-magisterial nature of the office of Quintus Laetorius Lucrio (CIL IX 5372 ) is indicated by the fact that he had been appointed by decree of the decurions.  Since:

  1. Marcus Septimius Anteros was described as VIIIvir Firmi (CIL IX 5374);

  2. Caius Valerius Onesimus was described as VIIIvir Falerione (CIL IX 5451);  

we might reasonably assume that these were colleges of the same type.  In other words, even if there were separate colleges of octoviri Augustales and octoviri at each centre, it is almost certain that both types of college were non-magisterial.

Federica Squadrone (referenced below, at pp. 67-8) asserted that the eleven inscriptions above represent the only evidence for colleges of this kind that comprise of eight rather than six men.  She observed that Leandro Polverini (referenced below, at p. 57, which I have been unable to consult directly) suggested that CIL IX 5446, which records an octovir Augustalis Firmi et Falerione, indicated:

  1. “... the existence of a single common [octoviral] college for these contiguous cities, as a result of the union of two quattuorviral colleges” (my translation).

Polverini had presumably made this suggestion because of the scarcity of non-magisterial octoviral colleges in the surviving epigraphic record.  However, Squadrone reasonably found this perplexing, since quattuorviral colleges are similarly rare: she pointed out that a college of this kind:

  1. “... is securely attested in Centuripae in Sicily (AE, 1955, 193) and probably at Trea [in Picenum] (CIL IX 5655)” (my translation).

It seems to me that the existence of a VIIIvir Firmi (CIL IX 5374) at Firmum and a VIIIvir Falerione (CIL IX 5451) at Falerio effectively rules out Polverini’s hypothesis.  

Simona Antolini (referenced below) recently published an inscription from a family tomb at nearby Cupra Maritima, which commemorated (inter alia) a VIvir and an VIIIvir Augustalis, both of whom were probably freedmen.  She suggested (at pp. 129-30) that:

  1. “... rather than assume the coexistence of VI viri and VIII viri Augustales at Cupra Maritima, which would constitute an anomaly ..., one might rather assume that the octovir who came from Cupra Maritima, held this office in one of the neighbouring centres, that is at Firmum or Falerio” (my translation).

In fact, we cannot rule out the coexistence of VI viri and VIII viri Augustales at Cupra Maritima: for example:

  1. -Federica Petraccia (referenced below) analysed the coexistence of seviri, Augustales and seviri Augustales at Sentinum; and

  2. -as discussed below, a freedman from Ameria seems to have served as an octovir there, despite the well-documented presence of seviri Augustales

Furthermore, if a freedman from Cupra Maritima had served as an octovir at Firmum or Falerio, I think that he would probably have been described on his funerary monument in his own town as an octovir Firmi or an octovir Falerione

Marengo et al., referenced below, at p. 40 and note 30 asserted that:

  1. “... the ... octoviri of Castrum Truentum [CIL IX 5158] were probably  [non-magisterial]” (my translation).

In other words, while it is certainly true that most of the known octoviri Augustales and non-magisterial octoviri held office at either Firmum or Falerio, we certainly cannot rule out the possibility of colleges of these types existed elsewhere.

Evidence from Interamnia Praetuttiorum, between Picenum and the Alta Sabina 

The Latin name ‘Interamnium Praetuttorium’ certainly suggests that it had been of Roman foundation established on the erstwhile territory of the Praetutti.  Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2010, at p. 207) pointed out that it was almost certainly established as part of Roman reorganisation of the territory of the Sabines in 290 BC, a hypothesis that is supported by the fact that the Latin colony at nearby Hatria and (probably) the citizen colony at nearby Castrum Novum were founded in 289 BC.  According to Frontinus:

  1. “... Interamnia Praetuttiorum ... is said to have been a conciliabulum and later granted the status of a municipium” (‘Land Disputes’, reproduced and translated into English by Brian Campbell, referenced below , at pp. 6-7)

Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2010, at p. 208) summarised the epigraphic evidence that indicated that it was actually a double community in the late Republic, when a Sullan colony co-existed with the conciliabulum.  He listed (at p. 209) a number of inscriptions that evidenced the presence of duoviri here, as one would expect at a colony. 

Sisani also listed (at p. 209) two inscriptions that recorded (or possibly recorded) octoviri at Interamnia Praetuttiorum.   One of them (CIL IX 5158) is fragmentary and is also of uncertain provenance (see his note 227).  The second (CIL IX 5067), which he (Sisani) dated to the period between the late Republic and the early Augustan age (i.e, ca. 27 BC), read:

L(ucius) Agusius Cn(aei) f(ilius), L(uci) n(epos), Mussus

C(aius) Arrenus T(iti) f(ilius) Rufus

octoviri iterum

balneas refic(iendas) d(e) c(onscriptorum) s(ententia) c(uraverunt)

It thus records that the octoviri Lucius Agusius Mussus and Caius Arrenus Rufus, both of whom were free born, had restored a thermal complex at Interamnia Praetittiorum according to a decree of the local senate.  He suggested (also at p. 209) that:

  1. “The coexistence of a duovirate and an octovirate, at least until the end of the 1st century BC,  is probably explained by the double nature of this community: the duoviri were magistrates of the colony and the octoviri were magistrates of the conciliabulum “ (my translation).

Thus, Sisani assumed that Agusius and Arrenus were pre-municipal magisterial octoviri, like those recorded at Amiternum and Nursia.   This represents the consensus view: thus, for example, Ronald Syme (referenced below, at p. 295) observed that:

  1. “A peculiar form of magistracy, the octovirate, is found in the imperial age in certain Sabine communities [that share] a common history ... .  [Magisterial] octoviri are attested at [Sabine] Amiternum, Trebula Mutuesca and Nursia, and also at Interamna Praetuttiorum, which .... might not unreasonably be described as originally Sabine.”

However, we cannot rule out the alternative possibility that Agusius and Arrenus belonged to a non-magisterial college of some kind at Interamnia Praetuttorium.  After all, although the Praetutti were almost certainly caught up in the Roman conquest of the alta Sabina, the subsequent history of their territory is closer to that of Picenum.  For example, when tribes were assigned to the citizens settled here in 241 BC:

  1. the citizens of Interamnia Praetuttorium was assigned to the new Velina tribe, like the citizen settlers and citizen colonists in Picenum; while

  2. (as noted above) the citizen settlers in the alta Sabina were assigned to the Quirina. 

In short, although the scholarly consensus favours a ‘Sabine’ magisterial octovirate at Interamnia Praetutorium, we should at least consider the possibility that, despite their status, Agusius and Arrenus belonged to a non-magisterial octovirate similar to those at Firmum and Falerio in Picenum. 

Unfortunately, the inscription itself is of little help in deciding between these two possibilities:

  1. If Sisani’s dating is correct, this would effectively preclude a non-magisterial office.  However, the EAGLE database (see the CIL link), for example, places it in the Augustan period (27 BC - 14 AD), which would leave both possibilities open.

  2. The fact that Agusius and Arrenus were free born shifts the balance of probabilities in favour of a magisterial office.  However as Henrik Mouritsen (referenced below, at p. 247) pointed out, non-magisterial colleges of seviri and Augustales were not: 

  3. “... exclusively reserved for freedmen ...: there are many examples of free born Augustales and seviri, albeit with great regional and chronological variations.  ... [There is also] considerable intra-regional diversity ...: [For example,] at Hispellum, seven out of ten severi were explicitly freeborn, in sharp contrast to nearby Asisium, where that applied to just three out of 23.” 

  4. The fact that Agusius and Arrenus had each served as an octovir twice suggests that this was an annual appointment.  However (for example):

  5. AE 1983, 308 records a securely magisterial VIIIvir II at Nursia; while

  6. CIL V 4008 records a securely non-magisterial VIvir II Claudialis et Augustalis at Verona.

In short, this single inscription does not prove, beyond doubt, that the conciliabulum of the double community at Interamnia Praetuttiorum was a ‘Sabine’ octovirate in the 1st century BC.

Quinquevirate at Interamnia Praetuttorium

As a postscript, we might consider the existence of what Marjeta Šašel Kos (referenced below, at p. 699) characterised as ‘municipal quinquevirate’ at Interamnia Praetuttiorum.  She noted that, at least as far we can tell from the surviving evidence, such colleges were uncommon (and indeed were unknown outside Italy).  Despite this, four surviving inscriptions record quinqueviri at or near Interamnia Praetuttiorum:

  1. three came from Interamnia Praetuttiorum itself and commemorated four quinqueviri, who were all designated as freedmen:

  2. CIL IX 5070 originally commemorated all five members of a college of quinqueviri, two of whom can still be identified: Titus Eleutheris and Titus Pamphius Ruc...;

  3. CIL XI 5072 commemorated a quinquevir Titus Licinius Dem ... ; and

  4. CIL XI 5083 commemorated a quinquevir who is now effectively anonymous (‘...lenus E...’); and

  5. the fourth (CIL XI 5276), from nearby Truentum, commemorated a quinquevir Truenti, Caius Marcilius Eros, who was a purpurarius (probably a trader in purple cloth) and whose name suggests that he was a freedman.

Marjeta Šašel Kos observed (at p. 706) that:

  1. “... there is no certainty about the exact role of boards of five in the Italian cities outside Rome ...  [Furthermore, they] are not the only rarely-attested colleges [to be found] in some central Italian towns ... : [similarly rare] municipal boards of [for example, octoviri and decemviri] are documented.”

She also noted (at pp. 705-6) that:

  1. “There were colleges among the *Augustale’ [the asterisk here signalling the collective name that encompasses Augustales, seviri Augustales and seviri and similar colleges] that had  numbers of members [other than six] ... These included triumviri, quinqueviri, octoviri and decemviri, obviously originating from the same social milieu, since the titles of some of them included [the word] Augustalis, such as tresvir Augustalis from Amiternum, quattuorvir Augustalis from Centuripae, and octovir Augustalis from Falerio.”

In my view, we cannot rule out the possibility that the college to which the free born octoviri Agusius and Arrenus belonged was a second, non-magisterial college at Interamnia Praetuttorium (the first being the better-attested college of quinqueviri).

Evidence from Ameria in Southern Umbria

As noted above, Amanda Coles (at p. 194) considered the possibility that a freedman recorded in a now-lost inscription (CIL XI 4402) from Ameria had held magisterial office there.  The inscription is usually transcribed:

Titus Travius Argentillus, freedman of Titus, goldsmith, octovir

There is nothing to indicate that Ameria ever had a magisterial octovirate: it almost certainly retained its nominal independence from Rome until after the Social War, when it was enfranchised and constituted as a municipium administered by quattuorviri.  Thus, a freedman who was an octovir at Ameria almost certainly belonged to a non-magisterial college.  However, Coles pointed out that one of the surviving transcriptions of CIL XI 4402 had Travius as a quattuorvir rather than an octovir.  She therefore concluded that:

  1. “... it is probable that this inscription actually lists a freed quattuorvir instead of octovir ...”

The problem with this is that freedmen surviving as municipal quattuorviri are practically unknown: thus, despite her extensive search, Amanda Coles found only one potential example: CIL IX 5538 commemorated L(ucio ) Annio L(uci) l(iberto)/ Capriolo/ IIIIviro, who served as a quattuorvir at Urbs Salvia in Picenum in the 1st century AD.  This inscription has provoked much discussion: indeed, Edward Bispham (referenced below, at pp. 471-2) included the case of the quattuorvirate at Urbs Salvia in an appendix entitled “Puzzles”, and Silvia Marengo (referenced below, 1990, which I have been unable to consult directly), whom he cited, characterised it in the title of her paper as ‘un Problema Aperto’ (an open question).  Bispham pointed out that neither of the other known quattuorviri at Urbs Salvia (which are recorded in CIL IX 5540 and CIL IX 5543) was certainly free born.  He suggested (again citing  Silvia Marengo, 1990) that this quattuorvirate might therefore have been a non-magisterial college, like the college at Trea in Picenum, evidenced by CIL IX 5655, which commemorated a IIIIvir Augustalis.  Marengo et al., referenced below, at p. 40 and note 30 asserted that:

  1. “... the quattuorviri of Urbs Salvia and the octoviri of Castrum Truentum [CIL IX 5158] were probably  [non-magisterial]” (my translation).

Thus, since:

  1. there are no known cases in which a freedman certainly served as a magisterial quattuorvir; and

  2. it is almost certain that there was never a magisterial octovirate at Ameria;

the suggestion put forward by Luigi Sensi (referenced below, at p. 458) is more likely to be correct: that Travius  belonged to a non-magisterial college at Ameria that was similar, for example, to the well-documented college of the novemviri Valetudinis at the Umbrian centre of Mevania.  Other possible comparators would include the colleges of:

  1. quattuorviri Augustales at Trea mentioned here;

  2. quinqueviri at Interamnia Praetuttiorum (see above); and

  3. octoviri and octoviri Augustales at Firmum and Falerio (see above).

Octovirate at Plestia: My Conclusions

It is now time to return to the question of whether or not the two octoviri at Plestia who were documented (respectively) in CIL XI 5621 and AE 1991, 646 were magisterial octoviri, which would indicate that, for a period of several decades after the Social War, the chief magistrates at Plestia belonged to an eight-man college.  The key point here is that magisterial colleges of this kind are only certainly-attested at:

  1. Amiternum and Nursia in the alta Sabina; and

  2. Trebula Mutuesca, on the border of the alta Sabina and Sabina tiberina.

Scholars usually add to this list,

  1. Interamnia Praetuttorium, although, as I discussed above, it seems to me that this is not absolutely certain; and

  2. Plestia. 

For example, having noted the magisterial octoviri at Amiternum, Nursia and Trebula Mutuesca, Ronald Syme (referenced below, at p. 295) observed that magistrates of this kind are also attested:

  1. “... at Interamna Praetuttiorum, which .... might not unreasonably be described as originally Sabine.  There were also [magisterial] octoviri at Plestia in Umbria ... Not that this debilitates the view that octoviri are an ethnic or regional phenomenon ... : Plestia is contiguous with the north of Sabine country.”

The most obvious problem with placing Plestia in this list is the fact that Marcus Annius, the octovir of AE 1991, 646, was a freedman.  In stark contrast, Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2010) identified a total of about 50 octoviri at Amiternum, Nursia and Trebula Mutuesca, of whom only one could be securely identified as a freedman: the exception was

  1. Caius Plaetorius Lupercus, freedman of Caius, octovir at Trebula Mutuesca (CIL IX 4897).

However, as discussed above, this inscription also recorded (inter alia):

  1. Caius Plaetorius Phaedimus, freedman of Florus, sevir Augustalis; and

  2. two Augustales.

  3. Caius Papirius Severus, son of Caius (who was the only one of the ten men mentioned in the inscription who was certainly free born); and

  4. Caius Annius Alcimus (who was probably a freedman, like the other Alcimus recorded in the inscription, who is so-described).

I argued above that this social milieu suggested that Caius Plaetorius Lupercus probably belonged to a non-magisterial college of octoviri at Trebula Mutuesca. 

We cannot, of course, rule out the possibility that Marcus Annius at Plestia might be the only freedman among the 50 or so recorded magisterial octoviri recorded in the vicinity.  for example, Guy Bradley (referenced below, at p. 141) suggested that:

  1. “Plestia was such a minor centre ... that, in the absence of better qualified candidates, a freedman might have held [magisterial] office here.”

However, Simone Sisani (as above) recorded eight octoviri who were or were probably free born at Trebula Mutuesca, which was a similarly minor centre.  (It is possible that the ninth known octovir here, the freedman Caius Plaetorius Lupercus, had held magisterial office  but, as I have just discussed, I think that this is unlikely.)

We might look beyond central Italy with the help of Amanda Coles (referenced below), who (as noted above) carried out an extensive search for freedmen who had possibly held magisterial office in the Roman Empire.  She summarised the results of this search in the first sentence of her paper:

  1. “From the Late Republic to the High Empire, inscriptions attest to seventeen freed magistrates, including quaestors, aediles, duoviri, octoviri, and quattuorviri, from colonies, oppida, and municipia in Greece, Macedonia, Illyria, Africa, and Italy.”

This is a very small number of freed magistrates from a huge number of centres across a vast geographical area, even assuming that all of the octoviri and quattuorviri that she identified had actually held magisterial office.  Coles herself eliminated from her analysis another two octoviri (one from Falerio and the other from Firmum) who were freedmen, on the grounds that there were certainly non-magisterial octoviri Augustales at both locations and:

  1. “... there is no way to prove or disprove that there were separate [magisterial and non-magisterial] octovirates [at either of them].”

Her seventeen freedmen who might have held magisterial office included only three octoviri, all of whom were recorded in central Italy:

  1. two discussed above:

  2. Caius Plaetorius Lupercus, freedman of Caius, octovir, trom Trebula Mutuesca (CIL IX 4897):

  3. Titus Travius Argentillus, freedman of Titus, goldsmith, octovir, from Ameria (CIL XI 4402); and

  4. Marcus Annius, freedman of Titus, octovir, from Plestia (AE 1991, 646).

I argued above that the freedmen from both Trebula Mutuesca and Ameria were probably non-magisterial octoviri.   Thus, it seems to me that strong arguments are needed if Marcus Annius is to be assumed to have held magisterial office at Plestia.

Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2007, at p. 144) suggested that, in fact, two aspects of AE 1991, 646 made it certain that Marcus Annius could not have been a non-magisterial octovir:

  1. The end of the inscription is usually transcribed as “VIIIvir(o) CH...”, but Sisani argued that the final letter was actually ‘F’: if so, then the precedent of CIL IX 4519 from Amiternum would suggest the completion ‘octovir[o] c(uratori) f(rumenti) p(ublici)’, which would indicate magisterial office.  However, it seems to me that, on the evidence of the photograph in Sisani’s Figure 10 and of my own photograph, the last two letters are more probably “CH...”: there is certainly room for debate, but neither Sisani’s reading “CF ...”, nor his suggested completion ‘octovir[o] c(uratori) f(rumenti) p(ublici)’, is beyond doubt.

  2. Sisani dated the inscription on palaeographic grounds to the Republican period.  This too would eliminate the possibility of a non-magisterial octovirate, since this type of collegiate activity was an Augustan innovation.  For example:

  3. According to Margaret Laird (referenced below, at p. 8, note 27), the earliest securely-dated record of a college of this type relates to the magistri Augustales at Nepet, which was established in 12 BC (CIL XI 3200).

  4. An inscription AE 1989 0290 records a college of seviri at Asisium in 7 BC.  According to Enrico Zuddas (referenced below, 2007, at  p. 295):

  5. “We are dealing here with the earliest [securely dated] attestation of the title ‘severi’, unqualified by the word ‘Augustales” (my translation). 

  6. It is therefore unlikely that a non-magisterial octovirate would have existed at Plestia before the last decade of the 1st century BC: if Sisani’a dating of the inscription is correct, then Marcus Annius was a magisterial octovir.  However, some scholars argue that the dating of the inscription at Plestia was later: for example, the EDR database (see the AE link) dates it to the period 30 BC - 30 AD, and the museum at Colfiorito similarly date it to the late 1st century BC or early 1st century AD.  In other words, there can be no certainty that it was too early to have recorded a non-magisterial octovirate.

Simone Sisani suggested (again at p. 144) that those scholars arguing for a non-magisterial octovirate at Plestia rely solely on the precedent of the octoviri Augustales at Firmum and Falerio.  He argued (citing Leandro Polverini) that these had probably originated from the amalgamation of quattuorviral colleges of these two adjacent cities and, since there was no such geographical context at Plestia, a non-magisterial octovirate here would have been unprecedented.  However, as I discussed above:

  1. Polverini’s hypothesis is untenable: there is no reason to doubt that the non-magisterial colleges of octoviri and octoviri Augustales at both Firmum and Falerio were established in this form; and, in any case,

  2. these were probably not the only precedents for non-magisterial octoviral colleges: others are indicated at both Ameria and Cupra Maritima.

Nevertheless, Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2007, at p. 143) asserted that:

  1. “The two inscriptions [AE 1991, 646 and CIL XI 5621] relate to the primitive constitution of ... the Plestini, which only subsequently evolved to match that of the neighbouring municipia with the introduction of the quattuorvirate. ... Doubts [that have been expressed] about the nature of this magistracy fail to take into account the parallels between this case and those of Trebula Mutuesca, Nursia, Amiternum and Interamnia Praetuttiorum, where the supreme magistracy was certainly the octovirate” (my translation).

However, there are, in my opinion, no ‘obvious parallels’ between the administrative development of these four centres and that of Plestia:

  1. As discussed above, Sisani has shown that:

  2. Amiternum and Nursia had been praefecturae until the late 1st century BC, when they were municipalised.  Their administrative colleges quickly evolved into:

  3. -a duovirate at Amiternum and

  4. -something akin to a duovirate at Nursia. 

  5. Trebula Mutuesca had probably been municipalised in the Augustan period, although it retained its octoviral college (which he designated a relic of its undocumented pre-municipal administration) into the 1st century AD.

  6. As will become obvious below, neither the amount of epigraphic evidence for the process of municipalisation at these centres nor the complex evolution that it indicates is found anywhere else.

  7. Interamnia Praetuttiorum was a conciliabulum (possibly administered by octoviri) that became a municipium administered by duoviri in or after the Augustan period.

If we remain agnostic as to the question of whether there was a magisterial octovirate at Plestia, then all we know about its administrative structure is that it was a municipium administered by quattuorviri in the imperial period (as evidenced by CIL XI 5619, which the EDR database (see the CIL link) dates to the period 50-200 AD).

In summary, it seems to me that the balance of probabilities is strongly in favour of the hypothesis that the two octoviri documented at Plestia belonged to a non-magisterial college:

  1. There is evidence for this type of collegiate activity (in which freedmen predominated):

  2. at Falerio and Firmum;

  3. in all probability, at Ameria, Cupra Maritima and Castrum Truentum; and

  4. quite possibly, at Trebula Mutuesca and Interamnia Praetuttorium. 

  5. Pace Simone Sisani (above) there is no secure basis for the argument that the evidence that either the early date  AE 1991, 646 or its likely completion indicate that Marcus Annius could not have belonged to a college of this type.

  6. On the other hand magisterial octoviratesare rare: they are only securely attested at Nursia, Amiternum and Trebula Mutuesca, where the members of these colleges were, with one possible exception, free born.  According to Amanda Coles’ extensive search, if Marcus Annius was a magistrate of this kind, then he was one of only three possible examples  that survive in the epigraphic evidence for the Roman Empire, the other two being:

  7. the freedman from Trebula Mutuesca mentioned above, who was (in my view) probably a non-magisterial octovir; and

  8. a freedman from Ameria, who was almost certainly a non-magisterial octovir, since Ameria never had a magisterial octovirate.

However, I must stress that mine is probably the minority view. 

Praefectura at Plestia ?

Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2014, at p. 204) asserted that Plestia was:

  1. “... administered by a college of octoviri until at least the middle of the 1st century BC: [the octovirate] was characteristic of other communities especially in the Sabine area, all of which are identifiable as praefecturae” (my translation). 

The implication seems to be that the presence of what Sisani took to be magisterial octoviri at Plestia implied that it too had been constituted as a praefectura.  However, while there is evidence for the coexistence of praefucturae administered by octoviri at two Sabine centres, Amiternu m and (probably) Nursia. there is no surviving evidence to indicate that:

  1. the Sabine octovirate of Trebula Mutuesca was ever constituted as a praefectura; or

  2. the Sabine praefectura of Reate was ever administered by octoviri.

Furthermore, there is no surviving evidence for octoviri at other centres near Plestia that were constituted as praefecturae

  1. In surviving fragments of his speech ‘pro Vareno’ of ca. 80 BC, Cicero described the Umbrian centre of Fulginia (just south of Forum Flaminii) as both a municipium and a praefectura: it was probably a praefectura until the Social War, when it became a municipium.

  2. Julius Caesar recorded that, after he had crossed the Rubicon in 49 BC:

  3. “All the praefecturae of Picenum receive[d] him with the utmost gladness ...” (‘Civil Wars’, 1:15) .

  4. Thus, it seems that the urban centres of Picenum were mostly constituted as praefecturae at this time, albeit that we only have direct evidence in the case of Cingulum (which was so-designated by Cicero in his speech ‘pro Rabirio’ of 63 BC). 

In other words, Plestia could have been constituted as a praefectura even if its octoviri were (as I argue) non-magisterial in character.

As elsewhere in Italy, these praefecturae in central Italy were generally located in areas that had received citizen settlersin the Republican period.  As noted above, Plestia, like nearby Forum Flaminii and Tuficum, had probably received citizen settlers in 220 BC, as evidenced by their shared assignation to the Oufentina.  It is entirely possible that all three centres were constituted as praefecturae, although it is alternatively possible that Forum Flaminii and/or Plestia were within the jurisdiction of the prefects who operated from Fulginia.

Read more:

A. Coles, “Between Patronage and Prejudice: Freedman Magistrates in the Late Roman

Republic and Empire”, TAPA, 147:1 (2017) 179-208

M. Šašel Kos, “Quinqueviri in Aquileia and Emona?”, Antichità Altoadriatiche, 85 (2016) 699-710

R. Syme (the author, who died in 1999) and F. Santangelo (who edited these papers from the Ronald Syme archive), “Approaching the Roman Revolution: Papers on Republican History”, (2016) Oxford 

M. Laird, “Civic Monuments and the 'Augustales' in Roman Italy”, (2015 ) New York

S. Antolini, “Una Nuova Iscrizione da Cupra Maritima”, Picus, 24 (2014) pp. 123-31

S. Sisani, “Città Senza Case: la Domus come Spazio Pubblico nei Municipia dell’ Umbria”, in:

  1. S. Gutiérrez e I. Grau (Eds.), “De la Estructura Doméstica al Espacio Social: Lecturas Arqueológicas del Uso Social del Espacio (Atti Alicante 2012)”, (2014) Alicante, pp. 191-206

S. Sisani, Le Strutture Istiuzionale dalla Praefectura al Municipium”  in:

  1. S. Sisani (Ed.), “Nursia e l'Ager Nursinus: un Distretto Sabino dalla Praefectura al Municipium”, (2013) Rome, at pp. 113-5

S. Antolini and S.Marengo, “Regio V (Picenum) e Versante Adriatico della Regio VI (Umbria)”, in

  1. M. Silvestrini (Ed.), “Le Tribù Romane: Atti della XVIe Rencontre sur l’Epigraphie du Monde Romaine (Bari, 8-10 Ottobre 2009)”, (2010) Bari, at pp. 209-15 

S. Sisani, “Dalla Praefectura al Municipium: lo Sviluppo delle Strutture Amministrative Romane in Area Medio-Italica tra il I Sec. a.C. e l' Età Imperiale”, Rendiconti, 21:1-2 (2010) 174-226

E. Bispham, “From Asculum to Actium: The Municipalisation of Italy from the Social War to Augustus”, (2008) Oxford

S. Marengo et al.Il Quotidiano Amministrativo nella V Regio Italiae”, in

  1. C. Berrendonner et al. (Eds), “Le Quotidien Municipal dans l'Occident Romain” (2008 Paris), at pp. 37-52

M. F. Petraccia, “Il Culto Imperiale a Sentinum: Seviri, Augustales, Seviri Augustales” in:

  1. M. Medri (Ed.), “Sentinum 295 a.C. – Sassoferrato 2600: 2300 Anni Dopo la Battaglia: Una Città Romana fra Storia e Archeologia: Atti del Convegno Internazionale (Sassoferrato 2006)”, (2008) Rome, at pp. 73-82

S. Segenni, “La Praefectura Amiternina e l’ Ottovirato”, in

  1. M Caldelli et al. (Eds), “Epigrafia 2006: Atti della XI V' Rencontre sur l' Epigraphie in Onore di Silvio Panciera”, (2008) Rome, at pp. 711-23

M. Romana Picuti, "Plestia e la Valtopina: Prima e Dopo il 295 avanti Cristo,  in:

  1. F. Bettona and M. Romana Picuti (Eds), “ La Montagna di Foligno: Itinerari tra Flaminia e Lauretana”, (2007) Spello, pp. 39-55

S. Sisani,  “Fenomenologia della Conquista: La Romanizzazione dell' Umbria tra il IV sec. a. C. e la Guerra Sociale”, (2007) Rome

F. Squadroni, “Regio V: Picenum: Firmum Picenum”, Supplementa Italica, 23 (2007) 45-154

E. Zuddas, “Asisium: Aggiunte e Correzioni ai Monumenti Epigrafici Compresi nelle Raccolte che si Aggiornano”, Supplementa Italica, 23 (2007) 268-347

H. Mouritsen, “Honores Libertini: Augustales and Seviri in Italy”, Hephaistos, 24 (2006) 237-48

G. Bradley, "Ancient Umbria", (2000) Oxford

B. Campbell, “The Writings of the Roman Land Surveyors: Introduction, Text, Translation and Commentary”, (2000) London 

M. C. Spadoni, “I Sabini nell' Antichità: Dalle Origini alla Romanizzazione”, (2000), Rieti

S. Marengo, “Quattuorviri a Urbs Salvia: un Problema Aperto”, Picus, 10 (1990) 199- 209

L. Sensi, “Gli Ottoviri di Plestia”, Bollettino Storico della Città di Foligno, 14 (1990) 455-61

L. Polverini , “Fermo in Età Romana”, in

  1. L. Polverini et al., (Eds), “Firmum Picenum I”, (1987) Pisa, at pp. 19-75

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