Friday, 2 March 2012

Roman Remains

"Multi famam, conscientiam, pauci verentur." (Many fear their reputation, few their conscience. -Pliny, Letters)

Archaeologists have unearthed two Latin fragments which were buried in a sealed container near Cyril Le Marquand House.

The title of one scroll is the "Apologia Francius Ambulemus", and it is thought to be the work of the renowned Roman Senator Francius, who had jurisdiction over the province of Caesarea (as Jersey was then known), for five years before reliquishing the post to Senator Publius Terentius Lesua. Part of the scroll appears to have been shredded.

Caesar mentions Senator Francius in his History of the Gallic War, in which he describes how in one campaign, Francius bested a tribal chieftain call Sivretea (leader of the tribe of Sivretians) whose war cry was "Illigitimati non carborundum".

The Apologia describes how it was necessary to make a covert financial deal with a Lictor. According to the text, the Senator describes how the Lictor said to him "Sentio aliquos togatos contra me conspirare", which translates as "I think some people in togas are plotting against me."

This deal is described in full in the second scroll. This is a written text describing a "stipulatio" which is a legal contract under Roman law.

A "stipulatio" is an enforceable verbal contract created by simple question ("Do you promise to pay me 500,000 gold denarii?") and answer ("I promise."). No witnesses or writing are required, but both were customary. It would have probably taken place in a private room just off the main chamber of the house.

The Latin text details a covert financial arrangement which Francius made to keep the Warden of the Isles, Gulielmus Oglica leaving to taking up a post in the English Garrison Town of Abomina (which may have been somewhere in Cornwall).

This meant that Oglica agreed to remain in Jersey, taking up duties as Lictor to Francius, but that if at any point, he decided to leave before, he would receive a gratuity of 500,000 gold denarii from the public purse.

As a matter of recorded history, he did precisely that, and questions were asked by other Senators and Tribunes.

But renowned historian Dennis Lincoln-Park casts doubt on the first of the documents, the "Apologia" scroll. "All the documents we have suggest that Francius Ambulemus was not the kind of person to ever issue an apology," he said, "so this scroll is a manifest forgery".

After his term of office had expired, Francius Ambulemus was to be found sailing around the Mediterranean in a massive Roman barge. It had a length of between 95 and 104 meters (341 ft) and a beam of about 20.3 meters (66 ft). It was 6 decks high, displaced a minimum of 7400 tons, and rivalled that of the Emperor Caligula.

This is probably what inspired Horace (in his Epistles) to say "Caelum, non animum, mutant, qui trans mare currunt." which is Latin for "Those who run off across the sea change their climate but not their mind."

Supplementary Note:
Jersey was probably called "Angia" not "Caesarea", however that was the popular name attributed for much of the 20th century (and the Mail Boat had that name).
Quotes by Roman authors, attributions and translations of Latin are accurate.
The Office of Lictor did exist.
A "stipulatio" did exist, and was as described.
Caligula's barge had exactly the dimensions given.
Abomina is the Roman place name for Bodmin (in Cornwall)
Dennis Lincoln-Park is the name given to the spoof historian in the Armstrong and Miller show, who has a series called "Enlightenment".

1 comment:

James said...

The size of the galley is not that far from that of the Condor Rapidus. Does it really require that much space to fit one man and his ego?