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It shows the two brothers as consuls, sitting side-by-side in special “curule” chairs (a mark of office). So a consul’s name followed by III, for example, meant it was the third time they had held the position.

So, instead of 50 BC, a Roman would have said January, and there was a new pair every year, so the names of the consuls gave a year its own individual identity.

A Roman reading a plaque with the names of two consuls, would have to know when those men had been in office, to be able to do the same.

Imagine having to describe a year by the Prime Minister in office at the time… Most Romans, in their daily life would have described years in more personal ways (‘last year’, ‘four years ago’, ‘the year Marcus was born’), and reserved the consular dating system for more formal occasions, such as formal documents and inscriptions.

Often the Emperor himself was one of the consuls, and effectively nominated the others, and some people held the position more than once.