"You give proof of your high regard for me by your delicacy with which you frame your request that I should transfer to your relative Caesennius Silvanus the military tribunate which I obtained for you from the distinguished senator Neratius Marcellus. ..."
Like his predecessor Quietus, this man was also a friend of the Younger Pliny and receives mention in one of his published letters (see above), adressed to none other than the famed imperial biographer Suetonius Tranquillus. It would appear that Pliny had arranged with Marcellus that Tranquillus should serve as military tribune in a legion under his command, a position that the biographer for some reason has had to decline, but has passed on to one Silvanus, a relative of his who also seeks to further a military career. The timing of the letter would appear to coincide with Neratius' governorship of Britain.
Although there are no inscribed stones which illustrate this governors actions during his tenure, there is another piece of evidence in the form of one of the Vindolanda Writing Tablets, from the fort on the Agricolan Stanegate at Chesterholm in Northumberland. Vindolanda Tablet No.31 appears to be a draft of a private letter written by one Neratius Marcellus, which perhaps places the propraetor of the same name at this fort sometime around the turn of the second century. This suggests that the Brigantes tribe were even then engaged in some sort of active resistance to local Roman rule, which required the presence of the provincial governor at this remote fort on the Northumberland moors.
|The Emperor Caesar Nerva Trajan Augustus, son of the deified Nerva, conqueror of Germany and Dacia, Potifex Maximus [High Priest], in the seventh year of his holding Tribunician Power, four times saluted Imperator, Father of his Country, five times Consul, to the cavalry and infantry who are serving in the four squadrons and eleven cohorts called: 1st Thracian, 1st Pannonian Tampiana, Sebosius' Gauls, Vettonian Spaniards, Roman Citizens; 1st Spanish, 1st Vangiones 1,000 strong, 1st Alpine, 1st Morini, 1st Cugerini, 1st Baetasii, 1st Tungrians, 3rd Bracari, 4th Lingones, 4th Dalmatians, who are now in Britain under Lucius Neratius Marcellus, and have served for more than 25 years each and whose names are appended, has granted citizenship for themselves, their children and posterity, the right of legal marriage with the wives they had when citizenship was granted, or if they were unmarried, those they have subsequently married, so long as it is only one.|
|January 19th, in the second consulship of Manius Laberius Maximus and Quintus Glitius Agricola.|
|(Copy) for the Decurion [troop leader] Reburrus, son of Severus, the Spaniard, in the 1st Squadron of Pannonians Tampiana commanded by Gaius Valerius Celsus.|
|Copied from and compared with the bronze tablet affixed to the wall behind the temple of the deified Augustus near the temple of Minerva at Rome.|
|Quintus Pompeius Homerus||Gaius Papirius Eusebes|
|Titus Flavius Secundus||Publius Caulus Vitalis|
|Gaius Vettienus Modestus||Publius Atinius Hedonicus|
|Tiberius Claudius Menander|
There is also a military discharge certificate or Diploma found at Malpas near Caerleon in South Glamorgan¹ (Burn.95; vide supra), consisting of a number of inscribed copper plates, which confirms Neratius Marcellus in the post of British Governor, and can be very accurately dated to 19th January 103AD. Copies of these diplomata were given to each auxiliary soldier in the Roman military after a specified period of service, in this case twenty-five years, which was the norm for an auxiliary foot soldier, thereby receiving the Roman citizenship. The troops who served in the Roman legions were treated differently; they were already Roman citizens, so they were paid more during their term of service (hence were provided with larger pensions), and they also need only to serve for twenty years. The praetorians at Rome had even more privileges and only had to serve for fifteen years or less before retiring with a substantial pension.
The archaeological record around this period certainly has a story to tell, for there is evidence that many forts north of Hadrian's Wall were burned down, all at around the same time. Agricolan forts within the tribal lands of the Votadini and the Selgovae in Borders Region, at Newstead, Cappuck and Oakwood, and other forts in the territories of the Novantae at Dalswinton and Glenlochar in Dumfries and Galloway, also the fort at High Rochester and the Stanegate supply-depot at Corbridge, both in Northumberland, all destroyed by fire, seemingly all in the same period in history, c.100AD - 105.
It has been argued that this burned archaeological layer was the result of intentional demolishing of auxiliary forts by the Romans themselves, as part of a planned strategic withdrawal to positions on and to the south of the Stanegate, but if that was the case, why was the Corstopitum station destroyed? Another school of thought is that this may be the work of the chariot-riding British hero Argiragus mentioned by the writer Juvenal (IV.126/7), in works published c.100AD, which would seem to to coincide with a major uprising among the tribes of lowland Scotland.
The Pliny translation is that of Betty Radice from The Letters of the Younger Pliny published by Penguin Classics, and the diploma text was heisted from that excellent reference Roman Britain - a Sourcebook by S. Ireland (p.230, #468).