Marcus Cerrinius Vatia: Here and Everywhere

In the course of the lecture given by Prof. Peter Kruschwitz, as part of the seminar series I organised this term, he mentioned a dipinto that caught my attention:

CIL IV 230
M(arcum) Cerrinium Vatiam aed(ilem) dignum rei / Messenio rog(at) scr(ipsit) Infantio cum Floro et Fructo et / Sabino hic ubique.
‘Marcus Cerrinius Vatia for aedile: he is worthy of this commonwealth. Messenio supports this. Written by Infantio with Florus and Fructus and Sabinus, here and everywhere.’

This text was just one example in a larger discussion of the spatial reality of hic (‘here’) in the context of Pompeian graffiti and dipinti, taken to a further degree with the inclusion of ubique (‘everywhere’).  Being familiar with a number of dipinti supporting the election of Vatia for this position, (including the previously mentioned dipinto supposedly written by the petty thieves), I couldn’t help but wonder if the ‘here and everywhere’ of the above text was a means by which Messenio, Florus, Fructus and Sabinus were claiming the authorship of the entire corpus of Vatia’s electoral programmata.  Perhaps, I thought, this is the only one of his many dipinti that includes both a rogator and a collection of scriptores who could have been responsible for posting the remainder of his notices.

Upon further examination, however, I discovered this is not the case at all.  A quick search on the Epigraphische Datenbank ClaussSlaby reveals more than eighty dipinti calling for the election of Vatia as aedile. Slightly more than half of these (48), contain no reference to a rogator or scriptor at all. (See, for example, CIL IV 115, 150, 483, 604, 810, 2924a, 3682, and 9830). The remainder contain one or the other or both, and this is where Vatia’s campaign gets interesting. There are more than thirty individuals or groups asking for this man’s election. Some of these appear more than once, such as Infantio, the scriptor of CIL IV 230, who is responsible with the rogator Fabius Eupor for CIL IV 120, or Faventinus who asks for a vote cum suis in CIL IV 235 and 3235. More often, the writers and supporters appear once in the surviving evidence: Iarinus (CIL IV 124), Africanus (CIL IV 818), Papilio (CIL IV 1080), and Ampliatus (CIL IV 7377), for example. Some of these texts include female supporters, such as Caprasia (CIL IV 207) and Pollia (CIL IV 368), despite the fact that women did not have the ability to vote. Members of local districts, the Salinienses (CIL IV 128) and the Campanienses (CIL IV 480) support Vatia’s candidacy, as do the pomarii (fruit-growers CIL IV 149), coronarii (garland-sellers CIL IV 502) and the saccari (sack-carriers CIL IV 274).

There are additional groups, much like the petty thieves, who also support Vatia. Florus and Fructus, the same writers of the dipinto claiming to be here and everywhere (CIL IV 230), are responsible for at least one of these texts. Found in the Taberna Hedones at VII.2.44, CIL IV 581 states:

M(arcum) Cerrinium / Vatiam aed(ilem) o(ro) v(os) f(aciatis) seribibi / universi rogant / scr(ipsit) Florus cum Fructo.
All the late drinkers ask you to elect Marcus Cerrinius Vatia aedile. Florus and Fructus wrote this.

CIL IV 575, appearing just three doors down, asks for Vatia’s election by request of all the late-sleepers (dormientes universi), a not entirely unrelated group, which has led to the conclusion supported by Tenney Frank that both of these texts are the work of Florus and Fructus.  As they were also responsible for a further three known dipinti, CIL IV 95, 387 and 803, they seem to be the writers most frequently working on Vatia’s behalf.

The content of these last texts raises the question (along with CIL IV 576 citing the furunculi) of whether or not all electoral programmata should be taken at face value as legitimate advertising rather than satirical commentary on the moral fortitude of the candidate. Regardless of that fact, the numerous dipinti and graffiti supporting Marcus Cerrinius Vatia demonstrate that he was extremely well-known, whether or not that has positive or negative connotations. And if the support of late drinkers and late sleepers is anything to go by, Vatia was probably not only popular, but quite a lot of fun.


Grand Theft Pompeii

A new blog post by Peter Kruschwitz examines Pompeian graffiti and dipinti that name thieves and bandits. Beyond the expected prohibition or condemnation of thievery, these also include petty criminals purportedly supporting candidates for election. This last group contains one of my favourite dipinti, concerning the election of Marcus Cerrinius Vatia to the position for aedile.

CIL IV 576:
Vatiam aed(ilem)
furunculi rog(ant).
‘Vatia for aedile: supported by the petty thieves.’

He is currently of interest to me for a number of reasons, one of which is the large number of rogatores and scriptores attested in his electoral programmata, which includes the above named petty thieves.


Pompeii Research Seminar Series: Dr. Rick Jones

Dr. Rick Jones (Leeds), gave the second lecture in the research seminar series Pompeii: The Present and Future of Vesuvian Research with a paper entitled ‘Future Oriented Archaeology in Pompeii.’

Dr. Jones has more than thirty years of experience excavating Roman sites in Italy, Spain and Britain, serving as the co-director of the Anglo-American Pompeii Project which excavated the entirety of Regio VI Insula I over a twelve year period. His interest in the Roman world focuses specifically on social hierarchy and urbanisation, which is reflected in his many publications on the development of Insula I.

Recorded on the 19th of February 2014 at the University of Leeds.

Sweet Addresses


Bene salutando consuescunt, compellando blanditer, osculando, oratione uinnula, uenustula.
‘They get used to us through nice greetings, sweet addresses, kissing, tender and delightful speech.’
– Plautus Asinaria 222-223

In most instances, the ancient graffiti that contain a term of endearment don’t tell us much about networks, as few of them actually contain a real name. Instead, they offer us insight to the kind of relationships people had, how they recorded these, and more interestingly, what was an accepted or normal way to refer to one’s beloved. Though there are many similarities in the vocabulary of endearments regardless of language, whether ancient or modern, many of the Latin terms of endearment are not necessarily palatable to the modern Anglophone ear. Whilst foodstuffs and diminutives abound in most cases, some of the Latin examples may seem as dissonant as the French preference for cabbage – as in mon petit chou – over an English predilection for desserts – ‘cupcake’ or ‘honey’. Referring to someone as the sweetest or most loveable is common enough  – dulcissimae amantissimaeque as in CIL IV 8177 – and is probably the most typical kind of epithet, particularly in funerary inscriptions. But the graffiti in Pompeii also reveals a predilection for slightly more unusual endearments.

CIL IV 1780
Quid faciam vobis, ocilli lusci
‘What shall I do for you, twinkling eyes?’

CIL IV 1970
Noete, lumen, / va(le), va(le) / usque va(le).
‘Noete, my light, greetings! Greetings! Infinite greetings!’

CIL IV 1781 = CLE 1785
Mea vita meae deliciae, ludamus parumper: / hunc lectum campum, me tibei equom esse putamus.
‘My life, my delight, let us play for awhile: let this bed be our field and let me be your charger’

CIL IV 8870
A(n)ser, ab(i) amo(e)na[e] / loco.
‘Gosling, leave my delight alone.’

The above seem relatively straightforward and fairly normal to the modern viewer. Indeed, most Romance languages actually retain the Latin use of referring to a paramour as ‘my life’ as in CIL IV 1781. But there are more still where the original meaning may be lost to us:

CIL IV 5094
Primige[ne]nius / Successe salute. / Val(e) mea pistilla.
‘Primigenius greets Successa. Hello, my pestle.’

CIL IV 4447
Fonticulus Pisciculo suo / plurma salut(e).
‘Warmest regards from Puddle to her Fishlet.’

Varone explains these away as ‘delightful nicknames, which, as always happens, have a more or less obvious sexual connotation’. Whether or not this is true or just a reflection of a modern grasping at innuendo in lieu of recognizable terms of affection is difficult to say. If we turn away from the graffiti and look to other ancient texts, such as Plautus’ Asinaria, we find similar motifs in the endearments as those found on the walls of Pompeii, utilizing imagery of love, light, and animals.

Plautus Asinaria, 664-668; 691-696.
PHIL.: Da, meus ocellus, mea rosa, mi anime, mea uoluptas, Leonida, argentum mihi, ne nos diiunge amantis.
LEO: Dic me igitur tuom passerculum, gallinam, coturnicem, agnellum, haedillim me tuom dic esse uel uitellum, prehende auriculis, compara labella cum labellis.

PHIL: ‘Give the money to me, apple of my eye, my rose, my soul, my joy. Leonida, stop separating us lovers.’
LEO.: ‘Then call me your little sparrow, your hen, your quail; call me you little lamb, your kid, or your little calf; grab me by the ears and put your lips on mine.’


PHIL: Mi Libane, ocellus aureus, donum decusque amoris, amabo, faciam quod uoles, da istuc argentum nobis.
LIB.: Dic igitur med aneticulam, columbam uel catellum, hirundinem, monerulam, passerculum putillum, fac proserpentem bestiam me, duplicem ut habeam linguam, circumda torque bracchiss, meum collum circumplecte.

PHIL.: ‘My dear Libanus, my golden eye, love’s gift and glory, please, I’ll do what you like, but give us this money.’
LIB.: ‘Then call me your little duck, your dove, your puppy, your swallow, your jack-daw, your teeny-weeny sparrow, turn me into a reptile so that I have a double tongue. Put a chain around me with your arms, embrace my neck.’

In this play, the terms of endearment are being used facetiously between characters arguing over the money a pair of lovers wish to use to buy away the woman from her mother’s employ as a prostitute.  Here, this language is used in a cajoling and pleading manner, in order to better convince the pair holding the funds. Nevertheless, these scenes demonstrate the type of language that was typical of exchanges between lovers, which in some sense could be formulaic, but at the same time could be distinctive to the place, time, or couple.

The individuality of the words shared by lovers is best demonstrated in a final graffito:

CIL IV 1477
Victoria va(le) et ub(i)que vis / suaviter sternu<te>s.
‘Farewell, my Victoria, and wherever you go, may you sneeze sweetly.’

Whilst sneezing may not seem the most romantic attribute to note, for Victoria and her lover, this held some particular meaning. I like to imagine she had an especially cute way of sneezing that her partner found endearing, similar to the sentiment expressed when Adam Duritz sings: ‘And every time she sneezes, I believe its love.’ 

Perhaps, that in itself is the clue to the somewhat odd way of expressing affection found in the graffiti – for most lovers, the sweet addresses and tender delightful speech is highly personal and individual. Being referred to as a fishlet or pestle may be off putting to some, but may be the most endearing phrase imaginable to another.

Pompeii Research Seminar Series: Prof. Peter Kruschwitz

Prof. Peter Kruschwitz (Reading) gave the inaugural lecture in the research seminar series Pompeii: The Present and Future of Vesuvian Research with a paper entitled ‘Aufidius was here. (Really? And where exactly?)’

Prof. Kruschwitz is an expert on Latin linguistics, Roman drama, Roman song and metre, and Roman epigraphy. He has worked extensively with the graffiti from the Vesuvian sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum, publishing articles on ‘Attitudes towards wall inscriptions in the Roman Empire’ ZPE (2010), ‘Patterns of text layout in Pompeian verse inscriptions’ Studia Philologica Valentina (2008) and ‘Menedemerumenus: Tracing the Routes of Pompeian Graffiti Writers’ Tyche (2012). A full list of his publications can be found here. He also regularly blogs about Latin in more modern contexts as part of his ‘Reading Latin’ project.

Recorded on the 12th of February 2014 at the University of Leeds.

Passing Notes*

A recent article in Smithsonian Magazine profiled the work of Caroline Winterer, an historian and director of the Humanities Center at Stanford University.  She, like me, is using social network analysis to look at the past in a new way. In conjunction with the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, she leads a team taking a quantitative approach to the letters written by and to Benjamin Franklin as part of the project Mapping the Republic of Letters. This project, in which the research focuses more on the information typically found on an envelope than the content of the letter itself, demonstrates how this methodology allows historians, of any period, to discern connections and patterns found in huge amounts of often fragmentary data that would otherwise be inconceivable.

Letters, unfortunately, do not survive from the ancient world in quite the same way, nor in such abundance – Franklin exchanged more than three thousand letters whilst living abroad between 1757 and 1775. For the best known letter writers of the ancient world, Cicero and Pliny the Younger, both of whom maintained collections of their correspondence specifically for the purpose of publication, there are merely hundreds. Survival of letters of the more average Roman, such as those recovered from Vindolanda, are more rare, especially outside of the dry conditions that preserve so much papyri in Egypt. To date, none have been recovered from Pompeii.

Yet, amongst the thousands of graffiti that cover the walls of the city, there are exchanges between two or more scribblers, responding, commenting, and furthering a type of discourse that can, in some sense, be compared to the back and forth nature of more formal correspondence. One such example is a brief dialogue between men named Severus and Successus, rivals for the affections of a woman named Iris. Found at the entrance of a caupona at I.x.2, CIL IV 8259 and 8258 are actually three separate inscriptions, the first and last by Severus, with a reply from Successus in between.

Successus textor amat coponiaes ancilla
Nomine Hiredem, quae quidem illum
Non curat, sed ille rogat, illa com(m)iseretur.
Scribit rivalis, vale.

‘Successus the weaver loves a barmaid named Iris who does not care for him. The more he begs, the less she cares. A rival wrote this. Farewell!’

This is followed by the rather confrontational response from Successes:

Invidiose, quia rumperes, se(ct)are noli formonsiorem
Et qui est homo pravessimus et bellus.

‘You who are bursting with jealousy, don’t dare to harry someone who is more attractive than you, one who is robust and wicked.’

To which Severus replies:

Dixi, scripsi. Amas Hiredem,
Quae te non curat. S[u]a Successo
Ut su[p]ra(t) [—].

‘I have written and spoken. You love Iris, who does not care about you. To Successus, as….. Severus.’

Both Cooley & Cooley and Varone discuss the texts, noting that this sort of rivalry is not unusual in the Pompeian corpus of graffiti. There are numerous texts which disparage a love rival, insult an acquaintance, or dismiss the abilities (usually sexual in nature) of a fellow Pompeian. What fascinates me about this particular example is the exchange between the two men – and like Franklin’s letters – it isn’t the content I am interested in, but that it occurred at all. This dialogue illustrates the connectedness of this community – that Successus should not only discover and respond to the initial text, but also that Severus should come back to add further to their exchange.  A likely scenario is that this pub served as the local drinking establishment for both men, with the popular Iris serving the wine. Regardless, this type of discourse, scratched onto a wall in Pompeii, provides evidence for a kind of interaction more usually found in letters, and thus substitutes one written form for another in a place where little non-lapidary writing survives.

* With thanks to my dad, an avid magazine reader, who gave me the article that inspired this post.