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The Career of Pertinax

Reconstruction of the Brühl Inscription
Reconstruction of the Brühl Inscription
The career of Publius Helvius Pertinax, who was to be emperor of Rome in the first months of 193, is best known from the Historia Augusta (Pertinax, 1-2). This late text mentions:

We know more details about Pertinax' career from an inscription that was found in Brühl, near Cologne. It was treated badly. First, the edge to the left was cut off, and then, the remaining part was reused in a sarcophagus. As a result, only the following signs remain:

HELV
Q P P
OR E
RAE
AE
VRA
RAE
VG A
M
AGR
ACI
GAL
CT
AEF
RO
NTA
OC
D
 
S

Fortunately, Roman inscriptions are stereotypical, and once the four first letters were reconized as part of the name "Helvius", it became possible to fill in the missing lines.

P  HELVIO  PERTINACI
EQ P  PRAEF  COH  IIII  GAL
LOR  EQ  TRIB  LEG  VI  VICT
PRAEF  COH  I  TUNGR  PRAEF
ALAE  ………  PRO
CURATORI  AD  ALIMENT
PRAEF  CLASS  GERM  PROC
AUG  AD  DUCENA  III  DAC  ID
MOESIAE  SUPER
AGRIPPINENSES
PUBLICE

If we write all the abbreviations, the full text is:

PVBLIO  HELVIO PERTINACI
EQVO  PVBLICO  PRAEFECTO  COHORTIS IIII  GAL-
LORVM  EQVITATAE  TRIBVNO  LEGIONIS  VI  VICTRICIS
PRAEFECTO  COHORTIS  I  TVNGRORVM  PRAEFECTO
ALAE ……… PRO-
CVRATORI  AD  ALIMENTA
PRAEFECTO  CLASSIS  GERMANICAE  PROCVRATORI
AVGVSTI  AD  DVCENA  III  DACIARVM  IDEM
MOESIAE  SVPERIORIS
AGRIPPINENSES
PVBLICE

This can be translated as:

To Publius Helvius Pertinax, who was enrolled in the equestrian order, prefect of the Fourth (?) Regiment of Mounted Gauls, tribune of the Sixth Legion Victrix, prefect of the First (?) Tungrian Regiment, prefect of the .... Squadron, procurator of the food supply, prefect of the German Fleet, imperial procurator ducenarius in the Three Dacian Provinces and in Moesia Superior, have the inhabitants of Cologne erected this from public means.

This means that we can correct the Historia Augusta's reference to a prefecture of the grants to the poor on the Aemilian Way: it has to be the procuratorship of Rome's food supply (the annona). We also know more details to the already known outline of Pertinax' career: Pertinax' first prefecture was of one of a Gallic cavalry unit; his unit in Britain was the Sixth; he did not command one, but two units prior to his transfer to Italy; he was indeed commander of the German Fleet, and had not one but two ducenarian procuratorships. It is not a terribly shocking improvement of our knowledge of the past, but it is interesting that all this can be deduced from one, exceptionally damaged inscription.

Literature

 

 

 

This page was created in 2010; last modified on 26 June 2014.