Joining the Roman Public Service (Caeser familia)

Posted by jerry on March 27th, 2004 — Posted in History, Journal

Friday 25 March 2004: A fascinating talk by Paul Weaver at the Australian National University’s classics program.

He began by talking about an off-hand reference in the Oxyrhynchus papyrus to a person called Herminos travelling to Rome …”and became a freedman under Caeser so he can get official jobs”. This seems to have caused something of a controversy among Classical scholars. After describing the Roman civil service hierarchy, Weaver described the various means by which a person could join the Roman civil service – primarily through being born into Caeser’s household as a slave or acquired as a slave and subsequently freed.

Essentially, where freedmen claimed to have joined the Roman Imperial civil service, it appears most were simply making fraudulent use of the appropriate titles. Basically there were three routes to the civil service:

* be born to an Imperial slave;
* be a slave acquired through bequest or conquest; or
* be a freedman (Pallas appears to be the only known case of a freedman having transferred into the Imperial civil service)

Herminos appears to have been a Roman Egyptian writing home to say he had made good. But it is likely that his claims to be working in various (unspecified) positions in the civil service in Rome seem to be either wishful thinking or big-noting himself to preserve his pride (eg rather than admit to being a garbage collector). In short, this fellow appears unlikely to have made a successful entree into Caeser’s Imperial Civil Service.


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