Although he was the captain of the 18th legion in the Varus Battle (»centurio primi ordinis«), Marcus Caelius’ name is not mentioned by ancient historians. In the Emperor’s service he had defended his soldiers and the Roman interests up to his death.
Marcus Caelius left his marks in another place.
After he was killed in action and the news of his death had arrived at the Rhine, his brother Publius decided to erect a memorial stone for him where he was stationed prior to the fateful battle. So he went to a stonemason and ordered a memorial stone, similar to a gravestone:
He wanted the relief to show his brother Marcus in his military uniform and with all his military honours. Furthermore, the portraits of Privatus and Thiaminus were to be situated next to him..
The two men were Marcus’ slaves. They were released a few years earlier and as free men they were still grateful for what their former lord had done for them. As usual they and their families would be buried together with their patron in the same grave. Marcus also ordered a framing for the memorial stone in the style of a temple: A decorated gable, ornaments and fluttery ribbons were attached to the corners of the roof of the temple. An inscription beneath the relief was meant to commemorate his brother’s fate.
The stonemason’s work met Publius’ desire ...
Marcus Caelius’ grave or memorial stone was found between Xanten and Birten, Fürstenberg. It was made of limestone from Lorraine. It is 1.37m (4 ft 6 inch) high and 1.08 m (3 ft 6 ½ inch) wide.
Translation of the inscription
For Marcus Caelius, Titus’ son, from the constituency Lemonia, (born in) Bologna, captain (“centurio primi ordinis“) of the 18th legion, 53 ½ years old. He fell in the Varus Battle. The mortal remains (of his) freedmen may (also) be buried (here). (His) brother Publius Caelius, Titus’ son, from the constituency Lemonia, had (this memorial stone) erected (for him).
In order to understand the text, words which are implied in the inscription were added in brackets.
M(arco) Caelio T(iti) f(ilio) Lem(onia tribu) Bon(onia)
[I] o(rdini) leg(ionis) XIIX ann(orum) LIII s(emissis)
[ce]cidit bello Variano ossa
[lib(ertorum) i]nferre licebit P(ublius) Caelius T(iti) f(ilius)
Lem(onia tribu) frater fecit
The completion of the abbreviations used on the memorial stone are written in round brackets. Definitely verified words of the inscription which are missing today due to its destruction are added in square brackets.