Law on the power of Vespasian.

Bronze. 69—70 CE.
Width 113 cm, height 164 cm.
CIL VI 930 = CIL VI 31207 = ILS 244.
Inv. No. NCE 2553.

Rome, Capitoline Museums, Palazzo Nuovo, Hall of the Faun
(Musei capitolini, Palazzo Nuovo, Sala del Fauno)

In the Middle Ages at the Basilica of S. Giovanni in Laterano. At the Capitoline since 1576.
The year 2009 marks the two-thousandth anniversary of the birth of the emperor Vespasian, founder of the Flavian dynasty, who came to power in 69 A.D. and reigned till his death, in 79 A.D. To celebrate the occasion, the Capitoline Museums (with the aid of the Città Italia Foundation, as part of the activities planned for the 5th Art Days event) have restored, for the first time ever, one of the oldest pieces in their collection: a large bronze plaque known as the lex de imperio Vespasiani or lex Regia, which lists the emperor Vespasian’s powers.

This legal document is enormously important for the study of the Roman Empire’s institutions. The first sentence is incomplete, indicating that there once existed at least one other bronze plaque of the same size. The inscription attests to Vespasian’s total control over the political, administrative and religious life of the empire. The text was written between December of 69 and January of 70 A.D.

We do not know where the plaque was originally located, nor where it was discovered. In the 14th century, this priceless document was in the basilica of St. John’s in Lateran, and was mistakenly said by the tribune Cola di Rienzo to be an example of the strength of the Roman Senate and People in conferring power upon the emperor. In a letter Cola wrote in 1350 to Ernst of Pardubice, archbishop of Prague, he told the prelate how he had had the plaque set in the wall of the Lateran basilica, unlike pope Boniface VIII (1294—1303), who, to show his opposition to imperial power, had turned it upside down to hide the ancient inscription, and used it as the top of an altar.

In 1576, pope Gregory XIII made a gift of the Tabula antiquae sanctionis (from the word sanctio, sanction, which introduces the last paragraph of the text) to the people of Rome, oredering it to be placed at the Capitol. It was first displayed in the Palazzo dei Conservatori. In 1733, pope Clement XII had it moved to its present location.

Compared with other legal documents discovered in the territory of the Roman Empire, the technique with which this lex was written on the plaque is most unusual. The lettering was not engraved, but cast. This feature was confirmed by the restoration work. The plaque was detached from the wall it had been set into almost three hundred years ago, which enabled experts to examine the reverse side and study all the technical aspects of the bronze artifact’s creation.

CIL VI 930 = CIL VI 31207 = ILS 244

Foedusve cum quibus volet facere liceat ita uti licuit divo Aug(usto) / Ti(berio) Iulio Caesari Aug(usto) Tiberioque Claudio Caesari Aug(usto) Germanico / utique ei senatum habere relationem facere remittere senatus / consulta per relationem discessionemque facere liceat / ita uti licuit divo Aug(usto) Ti(berio) Iulio Caesari Aug(usto) Ti(berio) Claudio Caesari / Augusto Germanico / utique cum ex voluntate auctoritateve iussu mandatuve eius / praesenteve eo senatus habebitur omnium rerum ius perinde / habeatur servetur ac si e lege senatus esset habereturque / utique quos magistratum potestatem imperium curationemve / cuius rei petentes senatui populoque Romano commendaverit / quibusque suffragationem suam dederit promiserit eorum / comitis quibusque extra ordinem ratio habeatur / utique ei fines pomerii proferre promovere cum ex re publica / censebit esse liceat ita uti licuit Ti(berio) Claudio Caesari Aug(usto) / Germanico / utique quaecunque ex usus rei publicae maiestate divinarum / huma(na)rum publicarum privatarumque rerum esse {e} / censebit ei agere facere ius potestasque sit ita uti divo Aug(usto) / Tiberioque Iulio Caesari Aug(usto) Tiberioque Claudio Caesari / Aug(usto) Germanico fuit / utique quibus legibus plebeive scitis scriptum fuit ne divus Aug(ustus) / Tiberiusve Iulius Caesar Aug(ustus) Tiberiusve Claudius Caesar Aug(ustus) / Germanicus tenerentur iis legibus plebisque scitis Imp(erator) Caesar / Vespasianus solutus sit quaeque ex quaque lege rogatione / divum Aug(ustum) Tiberiumve Iulium Caesarem Aug(ustum) Tiberiumve / Claudium Caesarem Aug(ustum) Germanicum facere oportuit / ea omnia Imp(eratori) Caesari Vespasiano Aug(usto) facere liceat / utique quae ante hanc legem rogatam acta gesta / decreta imperata ab Imperatore Caesare Vespasiano Aug(usto) / iussu mandatuve eius a quoque sunt ea perinde iusta rataq(ue) / sint ac si populi plebisve iussu acta essent / sanctio / si quis huiusce legis ergo adversus leges rogationes plebisve scita / senatusve consulta fecit fecerit sive quod eum ex lege rogatione / plebisve scito s(enatus)ve c(onsulto) facere oportebit non fecerit huius legis / ergo id ei ne fraudi esto neve quit ob eam rem populo dare debeto / neve cui de ea re actio neve iudicatio esto neve quis de ea re apud / [s]e agi sinito

[…] or that it be lawful (for him) to make a treaty with whomever he shall wish, just as it was lawful for the divine Augustus, Ti. Iulius Caesar Augustus, and Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus;

and that it be lawful for him to convene the senate, to report business, to transmit (business), to pass decrees of the senate by report and by division, just as it was lawful for the divine Augustus, Ti. Iulius Caesar Augustus, Ti. Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus;

and that when the senate shall be convened according to his wish or authority, by his order or mandate or in his presence, the law in all matters should be maintained and observed, as if the senate had been summoned and was being convened according to statute;

and that whomever, when they seek a magistracy, power, imperium, or care of anything, he shall have commended to the senate and people of Rome, or to whomever he shall have granted or promised his support in canvassing, account be taken of them at any elections extra ordinem;

and that it be lawful for him to advance and extend the line of the pomerium when he shall deem it to be according to the public interest, just as it was lawful for Ti. Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus;

and that whatever he shall deem to be according to the custom of the res publica and the “greaterness” of divine and human, public and private matters, there be right and power for him to undertake and to do, just as there was for the divine Augustus, Tiberius Iulius Caesar Augustus, and Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus;

and that in whatever statutes or plebiscites it is written down, that the divine Augustus, or Tiberius Iulius Caesar Augustus, and Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus should not be bound, the emperor Caesar Vespasian should be released from those statutes and plebiscites; and that whatever it was appropriate for the divine Augustus, or Tiberius Iulius Caesar Augustus, or Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus to do according to any statute or rogatio, it be lawful for the emperor Caesar Vespasian Augustus to do all those things;

and that whatever before the proposal of this statute has been undertaken, carried out, decreed or ordered by the emperor Caesar Vespasian Augustus or by anyone according to his order or mandate, they be lawful and binding, just as if they had been undertaken according to the order of the people or plebs.


If anyone in implementation of this statute has acted or shall have acted contrary to statutes, rogationes, or plebiscites, or decrees of the senate, or if in implementation of this statute he shall not have done what it shall be appropriate for him to do according to a statute, rogatio, or plebiscite or decree of the senate, that is not to be a matter of liability for him, nor is he to be obliged to give anything to the people on account of that matter, nor is anyone to have action or right of judication concerning that matter, nor is anyone to allow there to be action before him concerning that matter.

(ññ) 2009. Photo: Olga Lyubimova (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Text of the description: the plate in the museum.
Latin text of the law: Epigraphik-Datenbank Clauss / Slaby.
English translation of the law: Roman Statutes. Vol. I / Ed. M. H. Crawford. L., 1996. P. 549—553, no. 39
Keywords: bronze slab Law about the imperium power of emperor Vespasian CIL VI 930 CIL VI 31207 ILS 244 lex de imperio Vespasiani Inv No NCE 2553 NCE2553