Where does the statue of “the greatest and the most divine” lie?

The flow of tourists who came to make selfie with the newly discovered statue in Heraclea Sintica is not stopping. It’s paradoxical, that they indifferently pass by a pedestal with an inscription nearby, found again at this year’s excavations by the team of Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lydmil Vagalinski. It is true, that not a piece has been found yet from the statue, for which it was originally made. But it was certainly of a Caesar, who ruled the Roman Empire with his father for only a year. And that makes it so rare, that it would create a furor on a global scale.

Who is this Cesar?

The epigraphist Nicolay Sharankov is ready to give its name, though it was not easy to recover it – because of the use of damnatio memoriae, that is, a post-mortem deletion of memory. Only the words at the beginning of the inscription are clearly visible: “The statue of the greatest and the most divine …”, and the wish for luck at the end. The rest had been intentionally erased. In this case, the challenge in front of the linguist was almost like for a criminologist: he was supposed to stare at the traces and analyze them, to come back again and again, until he saw them in the right light – literally. “I have long been watching the sunlight fall into the right angle – says Nicolay Sharankov. I’ve been able to read the Caesar title easier, but the name pretty much impeded. I’m sure now – the text mentioned Publius Licinius Valerianus Junior. He was declared Caesar in the autumn of AD 256, and died at the end of next year. Because of the short period he had ruled together with his father Gallienus, inscriptions honouring him are extremely rare. And they help us for very accurate dating. It is known that in AD 256 Emperor Gallienus was active in the Balkans, probably visited Heraclea Sintica, and it is logical that the elevation of his son as Caesar provoked the city to have erected the statue. It was standing in the middle of the forum until AD 268, when Gallienus was deposed and killed, and then subjected to damnatio memoriae, so not only his, but the names of his relatives have been removed from the monuments in the Empire. However, it was for a short period – the soldiers liked this Emperor and under their pressure the decree was revoked. Meanwhile, the damnatio memoriae has come to Heraclea Sintica, the name of Valerian Junior was erased and the pedestal of his statue was later reused to build a larger pedestal. So the agora, whose remains we now see, was certainly built after AD 268 when Emperor Gallienus died.”

We do not know – at least not at this moment – whose royal figure stood on the later pedestal, where the base of Valerian’s statue was re-used. But the fact that such a rare inscription was found in Heraclea Sintica is a sufficient occasion for joy. There is no other one on the territory of Bulgaria, and all over the world they are less than the fingers of both hands.

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