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Tabulae patronatus

The tabulae patronatus were official documents used during the Roman empire, evoking  the bond between the citizens of a colony or of a city and their patron (protector, sponsor and benefactor of the city),  generally living in Rome. They were common in the Roman provinces during the first centuries of the Roman empire, but from the 4th century AD they spread also in Italy. They were somewhat similar to the tesserae hospitals, private documents that, since early times, established the hospitality bond between two contractors, the host and the guest. These objects were duplicated, in case of hospitality claims. The tabulae patronatus were made in double copy as well. One was displayed in the forum or in another public space, the other was displayed in the patron’s house.

Standard tabulae patronatus were written either in a short or long version. The short version contained the name of the patron and the confirmation of the patronage registration. The long version also mentioned the conferring decree of the patronage. The long version was used in the two tabulae from Amiternum. The first tabula concerns the patronage on Amiternum conferred to Gaius Sallius Pompeianus Sofronius, in 325 AD. The second is about the patronage on Foruli conferred to his son, who was named after his father, in the year 335 AD. They are members of a family from Amiternum, which existed over more than two centuries.

The first tabula mentions the munificence interventions of Gaius Sallius in favour of the city, such as the reactivation of the aqueduct called Aqua Arentani and the offering of two days of theatrical representations for the inauguration of the magnificent baths built by Gaius Sallius himself.

The second tabula is shorter than the first and mentions the conferring ceremony.

The tabulae are the last artifacts documenting the life of Amiternum. They were found about 150 m south-west of the amphitheatre, near the walls of a huge house which was interpreted as the house of the Sallii, and was still inhabited by its owner during the 4th century AD.