December, AD 238 )

( Johnson, Coleman-Norton & Bourne, Ancient Roman Statutes, Austin, 1961, pp. 230-231, n. 287


      In the third century A.D. the incessant military movements in the Balkans must have inflicted constant hardship on the civilian population. These troop movements had begun only under Gordian. Later the barbarian invasions from the North devastated the peninsula, but in 238 A.D. the village life was still sound and the villagers were able to protest vigorously against extortion.
      The inscription was discovered in 1868 near Dschumaja, Bulgaria.


      With Good Fortune.
      December 15, in the consulship of Fulvius Pius and Pontius Proculus.
      This was copied and certified from the record of petitions and rescripts made by our Lord Emperor Caesar Marcus Antonius Gordian Pius Felix Augustus, which were posted at Rome in the portico of Trajan's Baths in the words that are recorded below. Given through Aurelius Pyrrhus, soldier of the tenth praetorian cohort Pia Felix Gordiana, who is a fellow villager and fellow landholder of Proculus.

      To Emperor Caesar Marcus Antonius Gordian Pius Felix Augustus.
      A petition from the villagers of Scaptopara, also known as Gresa.
      In your most prosperous and everlasting times you often have written that the villages should be settled and should thrive rather than that the inhabitants should be unsettled. For that contributes to the security of mankind and is an advantage to the most sacred fisc. Therefore, we convey to your Divinity a petition that is just when we pray you to assent graciously to our request, which follows.
      We have our homes and our possessions in the aforesaid village, which is a desirable resort, because it has the advantage of hot springs and is accessible from the two army stations in Thrace. And while its inhabitants remained for years without being disturbed or troubled, they paid their taxes without fail and fulfilled their other obligations. But when from time to time some persons began to act insolently and to treat us with violence, the village began at once to decline. A well-known festival is celebrated within two miles of our village ; and those persons who come to the festival, which lasts fifteen days, do not lodge there, but, leaving that place, come to our village and compel us to provide billets and much else besides for their entertainment without any recompense. In addition to these persons, soldiers also, although being dispatched to other places, leave their proper routes and, coming to us, in like manner compel us to provide billets and other necessities without paying for them. Not only the provincial governors, but also your procurators sojourn here, primarily for the enjoyment of the baths.
      Now we entertain the higher magistrates almost continuously of necessity, but, since we cannot endure the others, we have appealed again and again to the governors of Thrace, and they in accordance with imperial orders have commanded that we shall be unmolested, for we have made it clear that we cannot endure it any longer, but we have it in mind even to abandon our ancestral hearths because of the violence of these invaders. And, as a matter of fact, we have been reduced from many householders to a very few. And the orders of the governors hold good for a little while and no one molests us either for demands for billets or for provision of food, but, as time passes, again they get the courage to fasten themselves on us in great numbers, as many as despise our simple civilian status.
      Therefore, since we cannot longer bear these burdens and we who remain are really on the point of abandoning the homes of our forefathers, as the others have done, we beg this favor of you, unconquered Augustus, that by your godlike rescript you will compel every person to keep to the route prescribed for him and not, by leaving other villages, to invade our village nor to compel us to supply him with necessities gratuitously nor to provide billets for those persons who are not entitled to them, for the governors again and again have issued orders not to furnish billets except to those persons dispatched to us for official business by governors and procurators ; and, if we continue to suffer these burdens, we shall flee from our homes and a very heavy loss will be inflicted upon the fisc ; and we also entreat you that we may receive your pity and godlike consideration, so that we may be able to remain in our homes and to contribute to the sacred taxes and other levies. That will be our lot in this most felicitous age, if you give instructions that your godlike letter be engraved on stone and displayed in a public place, so that we who have received this boon by your good fortune will be able to acknowledge its receipt, just as we now do, though . . .
      Diogenes of Tyre, the official agent, has come from the godlike benevolence for this petition. In my judgment some god foreordained this present request. It seems to me a stroke of good fortune that the most godlike emperor has granted that we refer the judicial investigation of these matters personally to you, a man who, he knew, had taken previous action about this problem by means of proclamations and edicts.
      This is the petition. The village of the soldier who is being helped lies in the fairest part of our territory of Pataulia, well endowed with mountains and plains. Besides these, it has baths of hot waters, most suitable not only for luxurious living but also for health and healing of bodily ills. Nearby is a festival, where people gather frequently during the year, and around October I it enjoys freedom from taxes for a period of fifteen days. Accordingly, it has so happened that the seeming assets of this village have turned to liabilities. For the reasons that have just been cited, it frequently happens that many soldiers sojourn here and oppress the village with the exaction of living quarters and oppressive requisitions. As a result, the village, once prosperous and populous, has sunk now to extreme poverty. Although they have entreated the governors again and again, the governors' orders have held good for a little while, but afterward fell into utter neglect, because the soldiery had made a habit of such extortion. They, therefore, necessarily appealed to the most godlike emperor . . .
      Emperor Caesar Marcus Antonius Gordian Pius Felix Augustus to the villagers through Pyrrhus, their fellow landowner.
      This kind of complaint, offered with requests, you ought to bring before the governor's courts and to seek there a settlement about these matters that are alleged rather than a definite authorized regulation by an imperial rescript.
      I have written it. I have certified it. Seals.