The Text of the Edict

Due to the fragmentary state of the papyrus, a reconstruction of the content of the Greek text was only possible by referring to other sources.

A brief summary of the content

In the edict, Emperor Caracalla expresses his gratitude to the gods (lines 2 to 4a) and grants citizenship to (nearly) all free inhabitants of the Roman Empire, of whom the majority until then held the status of peregrini or “foreigner” (lines 7b to 9a). The one exception was the small group of dediticii, who have not yet been clearly identified, and who in the Greek version are called deitíkioi (line 9).

Legal and social differences relevant to citizenship status are explained in more detail in the section on Roman citizens.

Texts fragments on the papyrus

The damage to the Papyrus Gissensis 40 is especially severe on the left half, which contains the text of the Constitutio Antoniniana edict. This is due primarily to worm damage, folding, and mold. Groundwater also greatly damaged the papyrus when it was stored in a bank vault in the 1940s.

Further details on the papyrus (for example, its condition, its known history, production, restoration) are available in the section on papyrus.

This illustration shows the section of the papyrus with the Constitutio Antoniniana:

Ausschnitt mit Constitutio

It is nearly impossible to identify the complete text from such fragments. Missing passages can often be inferred or interpreted only by referring to other documents. Texts published by Kuhlmann offer examples of such interpretive work with respect to the Constitutio Antoniniana (Kuhlmann 1994/2006, from page 218).

Original Greek text

Thanks to intensive philological and historical research, decisive passages of the Greek text have been reconstructed. This is Kuhlmann’s reconstruction (Kuhlmann and Barnes 2012, 47):



The following is an English translation of Kuhlmann’s German translation (Kuhlmann 1994/2006, 223).

Emperor Markus Aurelius [Severus] Antoninus E[usebe]s proclaims: [“...] rather? [...] the reasons and considerations...[...] I wish to thank the immortal gods that they have saved me in such a [danger?]. That is why I believe in this way [devoutly or something similar?] to act in accordance with their greatness, [when I...], so often to my subjects [other people?] come, [they to the temples?] of the gods bring. I grant to all [] the Roman Empire citizenship rights. In doing so, [the legal rights of the community] retain their validity except for the [..]. For it shall...[...] all [...] already also by the victory includ... [...] the edict shall [...] the greatness of the Roman people...”


Kuhlmann (Kuhlmann 1994/2006, 21) gave this interpretation (translation into English from Kuhlmann’s original German):

“The first column of the papyrus comprises an edict by Emperor Caracalla, as the text in line 1 indicates. In lines 2 to 4a, the emperor thanks the gods for having saved him from something. Lines 4h to 5 apparently proclaim an act by the emperor that is motivated by his gratitude to the gods. The meaning of lines 6 to 7a can no longer be reliably determined from what is preserved; the emperor mentions “my subjects,” to whom someone comes, and again mentions the gods. The wording in lines 7b to 9a certainly suggests Caracalla’s granting of citizenship “to all [...?] in the Empire.” The granting of citizenship is followed by a salvatorian clause which, modelled on other grants of citizenship, presumably stipulated that local law would still be valid despite the granting of Roman rights of citizenship. In line 10, there is talk of a victory that is supposed to include someone.”

Please >>click here<< to learn more about Emperor Caracalla and his possible reasons for proclaiming the Constitutio Antoniniana.