Mars/Camulos Plaque from London

A newly discovered Roman plaque from London measuring 12 x 16 inches (c.30 x cm) contains a complete Latin inscription dedicated to the god Martius Camulos, dated on stylistic grounds to between 50-150AD. According to the excavators the dedicant was a ‘Northern Gaulish merchant’ but I cannot reconcile this conclusion. Their translation reads: “To the spirits of the emperors (and) the God Mars Camulos, Tiberinius Celerianus, ranking moritex of the (traders) of London, (set this up)” (emphasis is my own). This, I feel, does not adequately account for the words C BELL or the trailing phrase MVS. My own interpretation of this stone would be:

The Text of the Plaque

NVM AVGG DEO MARTI CA MVLO TIBERINI VS CELERIANVS C BELL MORITIX LONDINIENSI VM MVS “For the Spirits of the Emperors and for the god Martius Camulos, Tiberinius Celerianus, Custodian of the Warriors,¹ Moritex² of the people of Londinium, [offers] this memorial in fulfillment of a vow.³”
  1. Based on the assumption that the letters C BELL should be expanded C[ustos] Bell[atorum], which points to the intriguing possibility that the dedicator may once have been responsible for the gladiators at the London amphitheatre. Alternatives might be C[ivis] Bel[garum] ‘Citizen of the Belgae’, assuming that the last letter is in error – tenuous I admit; or perhaps even C[urator] Bell[ariorum] ‘Overseer of Confectionery’, but now this is getting silly. Let’s hope there are clues further on in the text.
  2. The word Moritix / Moritex appears to have been an official title, but there are no clues as to what his duties may have been. It appears possible that the title could be derived from the intransitive verb morior, ‘to die, decay, fade’; another hint that Celerianus was somehow connected with gladiatorial combat – consider the famous phrase: Ave Caesar! Morituri te salutant. – ‘Hail Caesar! Those who are about to die salute you’. Another possibility is a connection with the Latin word mos / moris ‘custom(s), behaviour’, hinting that the title was bestowed upon someone who was perhaps au fait with the mores and customs of foreigners, maybe some sort of negotiator or conciliator.
  3. Based on the expansion of MVS to M[onumentum] V[otum] S[olvit]. This trailing formula leaves no room for the implied posuit (‘he has placed/set-up’), inserted by the excavating team.

Francis Grew, curator of archaeology at the Museum of London is reported as saying “the plaque probably dates from between 50 and 150 AD and would have been placed prominently either on a building or in a shrine.” This comment is fair enough, but the only connection of this particular stone with traders seems to me to be the fact that it was uncovered in the so-called ‘merchant sector’ of old Londinium town. There is nothing on the stone to convince me that it was dedicated by a “London-based merchant”, as they claim.