“Do not be confused if you see my inscription in Basel today and not in my home town of Augusta Raurica. Long after my death, the high-quality, carefully worked stone was transported down the River Rhine on a barge... and thoughtlessly reused in an ordinary residential building – as if it were just some common-or-garden building block. What a disgrace! Alas, tempus fugit, time flies, and unfortunately we cannot halt its march!
The honorific inscription to me, Paternus, was originally on display in the forum at Augusta Raurica. I was the holder of various high offices there, including that of decurio, or town councillor. In order to attain this office, one must not only be a Roman citizen but also have considerable wealth and be of good character. And one must, of course, have an honourable profession. A gladiator, for example, could never become a town councillor!”
Paternus is known from an inscription
PATERNO DEC(urioni) OMN(ibus) HON(oribus)
APVD SVOS FVNCTO
To Paternus, city councillor, who has held every office in his city…
A peek into the clothes chest
Paternus is wearing a white tunic with two red stripes (clavi) to signify his noble background and a snow-white toga. Bleached with chalk, the toga candida was worn by all men who ran for public office. Wearing a “neutral” toga such as this was to ensure equal opportunities for every election candidate. The gilt finger-ring was found at Augusta Raurica.
“May I have your attention please? My name is Attius Gemellus; I am patronus, honorary citizen of the town. I come from an influential and wealthy upper-class family. I am enrolled in the Quirina, the voting tribe of naturalised Roman citizens. A pedestal with a beautifully carved inscription was erected in the forum in my honour. The inscription ensures that everyone can see all the offices I hold and the contributions I have made to the town. I serve the town as a duovir, which in my inscription is spelled IIVIR (the two lines, of course, mean “two” and VIR means “man”). As befits our towns and cities, the council is always led by two magistrates. Unlike your towns, I am told, where one man alone is elected as mayor. Or even a woman! I am not at all surprised that the gods have wreaked havoc on your world.”
The town magistrate is known from an inscription
ATTIO QVIRINA (tribu)
For Attius Gemellus, member of the Quirinal tribe, priest, mayor of the colony and patron.
A peek into the clothes chest
Attius Gemellus is wearing a tunic with two broad purple stripes to signify his elevated social standing. The toga over his tunic has purple trimming which acts as a sign of office during his twelve-month tenure as a duumvir. Only men with Roman citizenship were permitted to wear the toga. Over time, this right was exercised increasingly less often and eventually the toga was only worn during official acts or on feast days. This was probably due in part to the cumbersome nature of the 6 m long and 2.5 m wide garment, which could only be donned with the help of someone else. The finger-ring was found at Augusta Raurica.
Finds from Augusta Raurica
Finger-ring with a depiction of Minerva, a goddess who was also worshipped as an official state deity. Iron with a carnelian intaglio. C. AD 180-250. Augusta Raurica, Upper Town Insula 48.