SEPTIMIUS CAN SCARCELY HAVE remained much longer at Rome on this occasion than on the previous three flying visits: the triumphant entry in 193, when he stayed less than thirty days, and the brief periods in 196 and 197, before and after the war with Albinus. This time he planned a journey that should have been the most satisfying of all, a return to Africa. The stage was set for a celebratory passage of the African Emperor through the land of his origin. Only one predecessor had been before, Hadrian in 128. Septimius himself and Antoninus were consuls in this year. For the following year the designated consuls were two more sons of Lepcis, his brother Geta, holding his second consulship, and Plautianus-and he too was anomalously to be called ‘consul for the second time’, even though he had not really been consul before. Plautianus’ ‘honorary consulship’, ornamenta consularia, were thus made equivalent to actual tenure of the fasces. (Dio, and no doubt others, strongly disapproved.)1

Once again the entire imperial family appears to have gone with Septimius: Julia, both their sons, Plautianus and Plautilla. Indeed, it may be supposed that this time his brother Geta was of the company, at least in Tripolitania, likewise various cousins, Septimii and Fulvii, such as L. Septimius Aper, perhaps a grandson of Septimius’ ‘uncle’ Aper, who was to be consul in 207. The route chosen can only be guessed at. They might have gone first to Lepcis, but it is more probable that they landed at Carthage. The great metropolis, now well over 200 years old in its revived Roman form, was given a great privilege, the ius Italicum, carrying with it exemption from provincial taxation. This was something of an empty honour. The Caesarian colony had been assigned a vast ‘measure’, pertica, of land, and considerable if not complete tax-exemption, and was responsible for settlements, pagi, of Roman citizens and native communities far inland, at least as far as Thugga, over sixty miles (100 km) to the west. Now Thugga and two other communities in the region, Thignica and Thibursicum Bure, were granted the status of municipium, and were thus

removed from Carthage’s territory. At least eight or nine other ‘peregrine’ communities were similarly treated. Carthage had been cut down to size. The move may have been in response to canvassing by prominent persons from these areas-the Marii brothers, for example, probably from Thugga, and the family of the Gargilii Antiqui from that place, long established in the senate. Other measures were taken in the north-east of the province-the only part, other than Lepcis, so treated. Abitina in the Bagradas valley was made a colonia, promoted from municipium. Vaga, further west, which had already been promoted in this way early in the reign, actually received new veteran settlers, reviving the ancient custom: it was the first deductio for generations. Elsewhere in the old province, Utica, original capital of Roman Africa and by tradition the earliest Phoenician settlement in the continent, was given ius Italicum to match Carthage, and it may well be that she too lost territory in a similar manner.2