Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus

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A marble statue of Celsus, currently in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum

Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus (Greek: Τιβέριος Ἰούλιος Κέλσος Πολεμαιανός, romanizedTibérios Ioúlios Kélsos Polemaianós),[1] commonly known as Celsus (c. 45 – before c. 120 AD), was an Ancient Greek Roman citizen who became a senator,[2][3] and served as suffect consul as the colleague of Lucius Stertinius Avitus.[4] Celsus Polemaeanus was a wealthy and popular citizen and benefactor of Ephesus, and was buried in a sarcophagus beneath the famous Library of Celsus,[5] which was built as a mausoleum in his honor by his son Tiberius Julius Aquila Polemaeanus.[6]


The Library of Celsus, which was founded by Celsus who is buried in a sarcophagus beneath the library.[5]

Celsus was born about 45 to a family of Greek origin[7][8] in either Ephesus or Sardis.[7] His family were priests in Rome and were originally from Sardis in Asia Minor.[9] They had been granted Roman citizenship, and some of them held official positions in the service of the Roman Empire.

The cursus honorum of Celsus has been recorded in a Latin inscription recovered at Ephesus.[10] According to it, his earliest recorded office was military tribune in Legio III Cyrenaica, which was part of the garrison of Roman Egypt. The next recorded event in his life was his adlection into the Senate inter aedilicios by Vespasian and his son Titus, which was a reward Vespasian is known to have made to individuals who supported him during the Year of the Four Emperors. Exactly how Celsus supported Vespasian is not known: the governor of Egypt at the time, Tiberius Julius Alexander, was the first governor to declare publicly for Vespasian (1 July 69);[11] a vexillation of Legio III Cyrenaica participated in the Jewish War and Celsus may have come to Vespasian's notice that way. Regardless of the reason, promotion to the Senate was a significant social and political achievement for Celsus.

Following this, Celsus achieved the republican magistracy of praetor of the people of Rome, requiring his presence in the capital city. Then he was appointed praetorian legate to the provincial complex of Cappadociae et Galatiae Ponti, Pisidiae Paphlagoniae, Armeniae minoris, an aggregation of territory that later became the provinces of Roman Cappadocia, Galatia, Paphlagonia, and Roman Armenia. This presents a problem: at this time (75-79) the garrison of this territory included two legions, which implies this governorship would normally be assigned to someone who had previously been consul; further, the governor of Galatia at this time is known to be Marcus Hirrius Fronto Neratius Pansa. Mireille Corbier provides a possible explanation: Celsus was acting here as an independent, yet subordinate associate to Neratius Pansa.[12]

The next steps in his career are less problematic. Celsus was then commissioned legatus legionis or commander of Legio IV Scythica (about 81–82);[12] with this, Bernard Rémy observes, Celsus became the first known person from Anatolia to command a Roman legion.[13] He returned to Rome where the sortition allotted him the province of Bithynia and Pontus -- then one of the public provinces -- as his to govern (84/85).[14] Celsus proceeded to Rome where the emperor Domitian appointed him one of the three prefects of the aerarium militare (85-87),[12] then returned to the East where he was governor of Cilicia from the years 89 to 91.[15] It was at this point that Celsus acceded to suffect consul.

After discharging his duties as consul, Celsus was admitted to the quindecimviri sacris faciundis, one of the four most prestigious collegia of priests of ancient Rome. His stay in Rome was further prolonged by serving as curator of the aedium sacrum et operum locorumque publicorum, or overseer of maintaining the temples, public buildings and places of Rome, an important administrative duty.[16] However, by this point Domitian had grown suspicious of Senators and other powerful individuals to the point of paranoia,[17] and Celsus quietly returned home to Ephesus.

With the reign of Trajan, Celsus returned to public life, and served a term as proconsular governor of Asia in 105/106.[18] He died some time before 117, the year Gaius Julius Severus of Ancyra erected a monument mentioning Celsus Polemaeanus.[19]


From the numerous inscriptions in Ephesus that relate to him, Corbier was able to determine many details of Celsus Polemaeanus' family.[20] Celsus had married a Quintilla, possibly related to the provincial family known to have flourished at Alexandria Troas at this time. Together they had at least three children:

  • Julia Quintilla Isauria. Corbier suggests she acquired the nickname "Isauria" because she was born while Celsus was legate of Cappadocia and the related territories. She married Tiberius Claudius Julianus; their grandson Tiberius Claudius Julianus was suffect consul in 154.
  • Tiberius Julius Aquila Polemaeanus, suffect consul in 110.
  • A daughter, who married a member of the gens Scribonia; their son Scribonianus is attested as procurator Augusti.

Library of Celsus[edit]

The Library of Celsus in Ephesus was built to honor Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus after his death. He paid for the library from his own personal wealth,[21] and bequeathed a large sum of money for its construction which was carried out by his son Julius Aquila Polemaeanus.[5] The library was built to store 12,000 scrolls and to serve as a monumental tomb for Celsus, being both a crypt containing his sarcophagus and a sepulchral monument to his memory.[22] The library collapsed after Ephesus was deserted but its façade was restored by an Austrian archaeology foundation in the 1970s.[23]


  1. ^ Solin, Heikki (2003). CIL. Walter de Gruyter. p. 1131. ISBN 978-3-11-015244-9. Λέοντας Τιβερίου Ιουλίου Κέλσου Πολεμαιανοϋ δούλος
  2. ^ Werner Eck, Matthäus Heil (2005). Senatores populi Romani: Realität und mediale Präsentation einer Führungsschicht : Kolloquium der Prosopographia Imperii Romani vom 11.-13. Franz Steiner Verlag. p. 267. ISBN 978-3-515-08684-4. By contrast, Greek senators were more than free to lavish their wealth on their own cities or other ones…Celsus Polemaeanus of Sardis endows a library at Ephesus in which he is honored both as a Greek and a Roman; the library itself may have had a similar dual character, recalling the twin libraries of Trajan at Rome.
  3. ^ Swain, Simon (1998). Hellenism and empire: language, classicism, and power in the Greek world, AD 50–250. Oxford University Press. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-19-815231-6. Sardis had already seen two Greek senators ... Ti. Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, cos. Suff. N 92 (Halfmann 1979: no 160), who endowed the remarkable Library of Celsus at Ephesus, and his son Ti. Julius Aquila Polemaeanus, cos. suff. in 110, who built most of it.
  4. ^ Paul Gallivan, "The Fasti for A. D. 70–96", Classical Quarterly, 31 (1981), pp. 191, 218
  5. ^ a b c Hanfmann, George Maxim Anossov (1975). From Croesus to Constantine: the cities of western Asia Minor and their arts in Greek and Roman times. University of Michigan Press. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-472-08420-3. …statues (lost except for their bases) were probably of Celsus, consul in A.D. 92, and his son Aquila, consul in A.D. 110. A cuirass statue stood in the central niche of the upper storey. Its identification oscillates between Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, who is buried in a sarcophagus under the library, and Tiberius Julius Aquila Polemaeanus, who completed the building for his father
  6. ^ Richard Wallace, Wynne Williams (1998). The three worlds of Paul of Tarsus. Routledge. p. 106. ISBN 978-0-415-13591-7. Apart from the public buildings for which such benefactors paid – the library at Ephesos, for example, recently reconstructed, built by Tiberius Iulius Aquila Polmaeanus in 110-20 in honour of his father Tiberius Iulius Celsus Polemaeanus, one of the earliest men of purely Greek origin to become a Roman consul
  7. ^ a b Nicols, John (1978). Vespasian and the partes Flavianae, Issues 28–31. Steiner. p. 109. ISBN 978-3-515-02393-1. Ti. Julius Celsus Polemaeanus (PIR2 J 260) was a romanized Greek of Ephesus or Sardes who became the first eastern consul.
  8. ^ Forte, Bettie (1972). Rome and the Romans as the Greeks saw them. American Academy in Rome. p. 260. OCLC 560733. The Julio-Claudian emperors admitted relatively few Greeks to citizenship, but these showed satisfaction with their new position and privileges. Tiberius is known to have enfranchised only Tib. Julius Polemaeanus, ancestor of a prominent governor later in the century, and the hellenized Tib. Julius Alexander. 1 16 His popular governor of Achaia, P. Memmius Regulus (IG II2 4174)
  9. ^ Swain, Simon (2002). Dio Chrysostom: Politics, Letters, and Philosophy. Oxford University Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-19-925521-4. Nevertheless, in 92 the same office went to a Greek, Ti. Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, who belonged to a family of priests of Rome hailing from Sardis; entering the Senate under Vespasian, he was subsequently to be appointed proconsul of Asia under Trajan, possibly in 105/6. Celsus’ son, Aquila, was also to be made suffectus in 110, although he is certainly remembered more as the builder of the famous library his father envisioned for Ephesus.
  10. ^ AE 1904, 99 = ILS 8971
  11. ^ Gwyn Morgan, 69 A.D.: The Year of Four Emperors (Oxford: University Press, 2006), pp. 184f
  12. ^ a b c Corbier, L'aerarium saturni et l'aerarium militare; Administration et prosopographie sénatoriale, Publications de l'École française de Rome, 24 (Rome: École Française de Rome, 1974), p. 376
  13. ^ Rémy, Les carrières sénatoriales dans les provinces romaines d'Anatolie au Haut-Empire (31 av. J.-C. - 284 ap. J.-C.) (Istanbul: Institut Français d'Études Anatoliennes-Georges Dumézil, 1989), p. 63 n. 41
  14. ^ Werner Eck, "Jahres- und Provinzialfasten der senatorischen Statthalter von 69/70 bis 138/139", Chiron 13 (1983), p. 309
  15. ^ Eck, "Jahres- und Provinzialfasten", pp. 316-318
  16. ^ Corbier, L'aerarium saturni, p. 377
  17. ^ For a discussion of this period, see Brian W. Jones, The Emperor Domitian (London: Routledge, 1993), pp. 180-192
  18. ^ Eck, "Jahres- und Provinzialfasten", p. 341
  19. ^ Corbier, L'aerarium saturni, p. 378
  20. ^ Corbier, L'aerarium saturni, pp. 377f
  21. ^ Too, Yun Lee (2010). The idea of the library in the ancient world. Oxford University Press. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-19-957780-4. … and son of Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, proconsul of Asia, who founds the Celsian library from his own wealth …
  22. ^ Makowiecka, Elżbieta (1978). The origin and evolution of architectural form of Roman library. Wydaw-a UW. p. 65. OCLC 5099783. After all, the library was simultaneously the sepulchral monument of Celsus and the crypt contained his sarcophagus. The very idea of honouring his memory by erecting a public library above his grave need not have been the original conception of Tiberius Iulius Aquila the founder of the library.
  23. ^ "accessed November 27, 2012" (PDF).
Political offices
Preceded byas suffect consuls Suffect consul of the Roman Empire
with Lucius Stertinius Avitus
Succeeded byas suffect consuls