Military Diplomata – Naming British Garrison Units

The Latin word diploma is derived from the Greek diploô, “to fold”, and can be used to describe all sorts of folded document, including impressive diptychs of ivory and ordinary pieces of papyrus or parchment.

Military diplomata or discharge certificates used a standard formula so each one issued would contain exactly the same text. The original copies of the text to be used on all diplomata was inscribed onto a bronze tablet which was kept on full view to the public in the centre of the city of Rome. In any given year each auxiliary regiment in the Roman army would have soldiers who had fulfilled their term of service and were due to be retired. During the early empire these men, along with their wives and children, would be granted Roman citizenship upon retirement and proof of this was recorded in the form of a copy of this text reproduced onto a small bronze plate. Several of these small reproductions would be made each year at legionary fortresses all across the empire, and the name of each soldier who was due to be discharged would be inscribed onto the bottom of one of these tablets along with the dated signatures of (usually) seven witnesses. These diplomata would then be ceremoniously presented to each retiring soldier, thus providing him with personal proof of his Roman citizenship.

There were several elements that made the document official:

  • the name of the man who gave the diploma (e.g., the emperor),
  • the people who received it,
  • the act itself (e.g., a granting of rights),
  • further specifications,
  • the date
  • the names of witnesses, who had to be Roman citizens.]

Military Diplomata AD 98
Military Diplomata 103AD (RIB 1401.1)
Military Diplomata 105AD (RIB 2401.3)
Military Diplomata 122AD
Military Diplomata 124AD (RIB 2401.6)
Military Diplomata c AD126 (RIB 2401.7)
Military Diplomata c.126AD
Military Diplomata AD 135 (RIB 2401.8)
Military Diplomata AD 135 (RIB 2401.9)
Military Diplomata AD 145/6 (RIB 2401.10)
Military Diplomata AD 158

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