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Soranus – outstanding Batavian warrior

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Epitaph of Soranus
Epitaph of Soranus | Photo: Gerard Geldenhouwer, 'Historia Batavica', 1530 - Bijzondere Collecties, Amsterdam

A unique epitaph has survived to our times from the tombstone of a certain Soranus – a Batavian (Germanic tribe) soldier serving in the Roman army during the reign of Emperor Hadrian (117-138 CE). We are not sure if the inscription was written at the request of the deceased or the emperor himself, in exchange for his merits.

The man was probably a member of the imperial mounted personal guards called equites singulares Augusti and, as we can read, was very skilled. Such a description is rarely found in the tombstones of Roman soldiers, on which we can usually learn about a military career.

This is I, once the best known of the Pannonian shores and the first and strongest among one thousand Batavi. I managed – let Hadrian tell you how – to swim across the wide waters of the Danube with all my equipment, and while a shot from a bow hung up in the air and fell, I hit it with my arrow and snapped it, I the one that no Roman or Barbarian was ever able to outperform. Here it happened, here I have put down my deeds in memory in stone. Let’s see if anyone can do better after me. I am an example to myself; the first who managed such a thing.

  • Damian Nitecki, Soran - żołnierz batawski armii rzymskiej z czasów pierwszych Antoninów, "Miles Romanus", 1, 2020, s. 3-11.

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