The Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah (U.S.A.) has installed a display featuring a Roman military diploma issued to one Marcus Herennius Polymita during the reign of the Emperor Trajan (dating to 109 CE), along with a replica of the diploma for visitors to handle, as well as other items. The exhibition (March 2007 – March 2008) is entitled “Two Ancient Roman Plates: Bronze Military Diplomas and Other Sealed Documents” and has been accompanied by significant coverage online:
- Two Ancient Roman Plates is the library’s website for the exhibit and it includes a variety of interesting information, including: “about the exhibit”, “artifact images”, a “resource library [of] articles related to the exhibit”, and a “behind the scenes” piece on how the exhibit was created.
- “Library Exhibit Features Two Ancient Roman Plates” is a post on the Lee Library’s blog
- “Roman plates at BYU: Features are similar to those that Joseph Smith described” in Deseret News for Thursday, 31 May (noted by way of Rogue Classicism)
Two articles about the diploma were published in BYU Studies (I cannot tease out volume and year because of the way the website is arranged):
- John W. Welch and Kelsey D. Lambert, “Two Ancient Roman Plates”: abstract and link to full text article (not seen; cost $2)
- Michael J. Dorais and Edward L. Hart, “A Metallurgical Provenance Study of the Marcus Herennius Military Diploma”: abstract and link to full text article (not seen; cost $2)
Provenance and editions
The online, free access materials are not explicit on this matter, saying only that the diploma was discovered in Dacia and its metallurgical makeup is consistent with ores mined in Sardinia and the Iberian peninsula and smelted during the first century of the Roman Empire. It would appear to me, however, that this diploma was cataloged in:
- M. Roxan, Roman Military Diplomas 1985-1993, London, 1994, ISBN: 090583334 (worldcat record; fulltext PDF online via the BYU exhibition website), no. 148 (text and commentary).
According to Roxan, the diploma was discovered in 1986 at Ranovac (now in Serbia and Montenegro), ca. 30km south of the Roman legionary fortress at Viminacium (modern Kostolac = BAtlas 21 D5), “allegedly with three others.”
The diploma is also registered in the Epigraphic Databank Heidelberg (text, bibliography), albeit without a reference to Roxan:
- EDH HD024969
I am not aware of an online translation of this diploma.
Readers may also be interested in the now venerable (1998!), website for the Roman Military Diploma from Slavonski Brod, which includes photographs, text and discussion of another diploma for which the original seals (and protective covering) are preserved.