(ORDO NEWS) — During the construction of the building, workers discovered a cemetery of 37 graves. One burial was unique.
In the city of Izmit (the ancient name is Nicomedia) in the north-west of modern Turkey, local public utilities were building a new building for their office.
And they stumbled upon a whole cemetery hidden underground. Next, archaeologists from the University of Marmara, led by Huseyin Sami Öztürk, got down to business.
They unearthed 37 graves dating back to the 2nd-4th centuries AD. One burial stands out in particular: it is a stone sarcophagus, on which not only the bas-reliefs with images of warriors are well preserved, but also the inscription on the side panel.
According to this inscription, Tziampo, the bodyguard of Emperor Diocletian, was buried in the sarcophagus.
The full text in translation looks something like this: “I have lived 50 years. I do not allow anyone to be buried in this tomb except my son Sever or my wife. I served nine years as a private in the cavalry, 11 years as a captain, and ten years as a protector.
If someone dares to bury another in this tomb, he will pay 20 follis (a Roman and later Byzantine bronze coin that devalued heavily under Diocletian. – Ed.) to the fiscus (emperor’s private treasury. – Approx. ed.) and ten to the city treasury.
The sarcophagus contained the remains of two people. Now scientists are figuring out who the second buried was – the son or wife of Tziampo. What is interesting about the sarcophagus?
It must be said that the history of the personal protection of the first persons of the Roman Republic, and then the empire, is an extremely complicated matter: the sources contradict each other, the finds of archaeologists raise more questions than they give answers.
Interestingly, the first bodyguards of the Roman consuls and generals were not Roman citizens. The so-called selective detachments, or ablects, were recruited from the allied forces. It was believed that in this way they act as a guarantor of the loyalty of compatriots.
Later, the ablects were transformed into the Praetorian Guard, whose soldiers performed the same functions, and the name came from the concept of “praetorium” – this was the name of the location of the commander’s tent in the army field camp.
Gradually, the Praetorian Guard expanded, it began to include support units, clerks, translators, heralds and many others.
Octavian Augustus increased the number of Praetorians to nine thousand: nine cohorts of a thousand men. Of course, such a number was not needed for personal protection, but Octavian intended these people to protect public order in Rome.
It should be noted that the Praetorians of that time were recruited from the inhabitants of Italy, but not the citizens of Rome. Later, it was decided to take into these elite units not only the natives of the Apennine Peninsula.
Over time, the Praetorians became too actively involved in the political life of the Eternal City – and by force, which is natural for the guard. Sometimes they were drawn into conspiracies, counting on military support. Sometimes they themselves carried out coups.
For example, the emperors Caligula and Commodus were killed by the Praetorians involved in conspiracies. And the praetorian Macrinus personally organized a conspiracy, as a result of which the emperor Caracalla was killed, and he himself sat on the throne.
With such defenders, the emperors were not entirely safe. Therefore, under the emperor Gallienus, who ruled in 253-268 AD, they created a separate detachment of the emperor’s bodyguards – protectors (from the Latin protector – “patron”, “protector”).
We know little about this unit, but there is information about the protector Tziampo in the sources. This name is mentioned in relation to a man whom we would today call the aide-de-camp of the emperor Diocletian, who ruled in 284-305.
Tziampo was from the territory of modern Romania and, as it is written on the wall of the sarcophagus, he served as a simple cavalryman for nine years, then he received the title of “ordinarius” (captain), and after another 11 years he became a protector.
People received the title of protector, as often happens, in two ways: for military merit or thanks to personal connections or bribes.
Because of the second, the emperors had to purge from time to time in the ranks of their close bodyguards, since they clearly did not want to raise another Praetorian. Obviously, Tziampo became a protector for military merit.
The discovery of the sarcophagus is the first time that archaeologists know exactly the name of the buried and have the opportunity to study the skeletons and funerary gifts that are reliably related to the protector.
We only add that the Praetorian Guard was completely destroyed by Emperor Constantine the Great in 312, after the battle at the Milvian Bridge.
In this battle, Constantine was opposed precisely by the Praetorians, who had previously brought the usurper Maxentius to power in Rome. Constantine ordered the destruction of the Praetorian camp as a “permanent nest of revolts”.
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